Friday, August 29, 2008

Uh Oh - Here Comes Gustav?!

Here we go again?

Hopefully not, but exactly three years ago today, Hurricane Katrina made landfall after buzzing through the offshore oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico as a Category 5 storm (we documented some of the resulting offshore oil spills), and now it looks like Hurricane Gustav may be heading for the same trajectory. It just regained hurricane strength today, and forecasters have been predicting at least a Category 3 storm when it reaches the hot water of the central Gulf of Mexico.

We're also hopeful that the mooring systems for floating drill rigs have been significantly strengthened. During Katrina, some of these huge rigs broke loose and got blown around the Gulf, dragging their anchors across the seafloor and tearing up the pipeline network. We think that caused many of the offshore slicks we observed on satellite imagery.

But most of the oil spilled by hurricanes Katrina and Rita happened onshore: over 9 million gallons, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, spilled from coastal refineries, storage tanks and pipelines - 6 major spills (>100,000 gallons), 5 medium spills, and over 5,000 minor spills. And those onshore facilities are just as vulnerable now as they were three years ago. Let's keep our fingers crossed and say a prayer for the folks down along the Gulf coast. And keep an eye on Gustav. (What's that you say? Hanna too?? You gotta be kidding me....)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Video Showing History and Extent of Drilling in the Rockies

As seen yesterday morning in the "Big Tent" at the DNC in Denver:


For The Wilderness Society, SkyTruth produced a 3-1/2 minute narrated video showing the extent of drilling across the Rocky Mountain states, featuring a time-lapse animation of the drilling history of Wyoming. You can access the video at the Better Energy website, view it on YouTube, or for a higher-quality experience, watch it at EmPivot, the green-video site.

Many groups provided us with photos and other assistance; there's a full page of credits on the Better Energy web page. Ecofusion provided much technical and creative horsepower (they also worked on our virtual tour video of drilling impacts in Wyoming's Upper Green River Valley). We generated the Wyoming drilling animation and the full Rockies flyover sequences using Google Earth. So of course we've also created a Google Earth KMZ file for each state, with all of the well data (nearly 300,000 wells). If you'd like to check out the wells nearest you, get Google Earth and download the files for Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The Wyoming well data are animated so you can watch the drilling history of the entire state unfold right onscreen; be sure to click on and read the Viewing Tips to learn how to use the animation feature.

Enjoy the flick, Drilling Gone Wrong: The Rockies on the Brink. Then cruise around our interactive map showing some of the areas in the West where drilling is causing conflicts.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Map - Conflicts Over Drilling in the Rocky Mountain West


We've been having fun with the MyMaps application in Google Maps. Anyone can build their own custom maps and publish them online. This is really useful and kind of fun if you're a map-geek like me. We just created a map of the Rocky Mountain states (CO, MT, NM, UT, WY) showing some of the places where conflict has emerged recently because of the rapid pace of drilling, mostly for natural gas. This is not just about tree-huggers; many of these conflicts involve local landowners, ranchers, hunters, outfitters and ordinary folks who are angry about the impacts to the land and wildlife, pollution of once-pristine Western air and water, and decline in their quality of life. So check out the map.

And if you get inspired to create your own map that tells an environmental story, please share it with us: add a comment to this post, or send us an email.

By the way, our interactive conflicts map is featured on a new website, Why The Favors (WTF??), making its debut this week at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.