What If There’s a Hurricane?

Brian Beutler has an excellent piece out explaining the possible consequences of a hurricane hitting the oil-soaked Gulf of Mexico. I’ll reproduce this NOAA image showing the course of the past 100 years’ worth of hurricanes through the Gulf and then quote Beutler’s piece:

hurricanespaghetti 1

“There’s a bunch of impacts,” says William Drennan, a hurricane expert at the University of Miami’s Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

“If you get a storm which is coming toward the coast you can get a significant storm surge,” Drennan told me in an interview Thursday afternoon. “If you get a storm surge, then the top meter of the water is going to go…certainly hundreds of feet possibly miles inland.”

That, he said, could propel oil “deep into the marshland,” where the ecological impact could be worse than if the oil remained on the surface or slightly below.

Of course the ecological fallout from this spill is unusually stark, sudden, and catastrophic. But burning and obtaining fossile fuels causes all sorts of ecological and public health impacts over and above the climate issue, basically none of which are factored into the price we see at the end. This—and only this—is what makes dirty energy seem cheap and appealing. But everything looks good if you ignore the downsides.