U.S. experts want severe penalty, strict regulations to prevent future oil spill

08:33, June 12, 2010      

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U.S. experts said more severe penalty and strict regulations on oil drilling will likely prevent similar environmental catastrophes as it has happened in the Gulf of Mexico from happening again.

Thomas Azwell, Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management in the University of California at Berkeley, who has developed low-cost and environmentally safe bioremediation technologies for hydrocarbons and toxins found in crude oil and dredge spoils, told Xinhua in a recent interview that there are laws and regulations governing companies drilling oil at sea, but the problem is how to enforce them.

In his opinion, the penalty of 75 million dollars for any single accident is too low. Comparing with the big profits, the penalty is not enough to make those companies to take more precautions to prevent any accident to happen.

Azwell said the profits are too high but the risk is too low, that is a problem. "If you make it more expensive, they will take more precautions," said Azwell.

According to Azwell, it is capitalism and greed that caused the biggest environmental catastrophe. To raise penalty to make it more expensive will change the industry.

Azwell said the impact of the oil spill on the environment can be bigger than any previous oil spills before, and the impact will last for five to 10 yeas.

He said there is technology to stop the oil spill, but it takes time by traditional way to drill relief wells. It will take several months and nobody is going to wait for that long.

Asked whether there are better technologies to stop and collect the oil spill, Azwell said there is a better technology that has been produced by Sweden.

He said it works like an umbrella, which covers the above, and it is effective because it allows the gas to go through it but does not allow the oil to pass. That will catch the majority of oil that has been spilled.

However, the technology is rather new and has not gone through many experiments, and big companies would usually turn to traditional technology to stop oil spill, but this time the traditional way doesn't work.

He said the U.S. should invest more money in developing new technology, and it is better for the government to fund research from universities, but so far most of the research is funded by the industry. In his opinion, universities are more objective in doing research.

Richard F. Ambrose, director of the Environmental Science and Engineering Program at the University of California , Los Angeles (UCLA) and a professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA School of Public Health, told Xinhua in a recent interview that the oil spill is really serious and catastrophic to the environment.

Ambrose, an expert on the ecological impacts of oil spills, contaminants and other human activities in coastal and marine environments, said the impact will last for five to 10 years and because the oil kills the plants and when the plants die, many animals will also die.

He said it is extremely difficult to remove the oil spills at the wetland since wetland is hard to keep people and equipment, and there is also a need to worry about those under the water.

Asked about the lesions, Ambrose said: "One of the lessons we learned is that when we drill oil in deep sea, we do not have the technology and measures to prevent such accident to happen and to contain it."

He said the technology to prevent the accident is important, but the U.S. Government does not have enough money for the big catastrophe.

"We will have to rely on the industry, which is not ready to prevent this to happen. The lesson is we need to prevent this to happen, so the technology is important," he said.

Ambrose also held that there are laws and regulations, but those regulations are not strong enough to prevent such disaster, the reason is the procedures are not strictly followed and there is lack of control.

He said the United States will have more scrutiny in allowing companies to drill oil in the sea.

In his opinion, California has very strict scrutiny and that has made oil companies very difficult to drill oil there. He predicted that there will be more careful evaluation of proposals in the future.



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