By INDYKIDS STAFF

Aftermath of World’s Largest Oil Spill

On April 20, an explosion at an oil and gas well of the oil company BP (formerly British Petroleum) caused millions of gallons of oil to pour into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The leak was finally stopped three months later, but then the oil spread and came to the water surface. The oil pollutes the water and makes the air above it difficult to breathe. BP and the U.S. government worked to clean up the spill by using barriers to prevent the spread of oil. They also burned the oil, used chemicals to break up the oil and skimmed off the oil and separated it from the water. The problem is that most of these solutions cause more pollution and damage to the environment.

PHOTO: Courtesy Louisiana Department of Wildlife and FisheriesLUCKY TURTLE: A biologist found this Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle covered in oil and brought him to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Research Lab. After oil samples were taken from the turtle’s body, he was moved to an aquarium that cleans and helps rescued animals heal. Rescuers named this turtle “Lucky.” PHOTO: courtesy Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

OIL COMPANY POWER

BP is one of six major oil companies in the world that has a large influence in politics in the United States. The company and its employees have given over $3.5 million to political candidates, including President Obama. BP has also violated many safety standards in order to cut costs. “In just the last few years, BP has paid $485 million in fines and settlements to the U.S. government for environmental crimes,” said Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen in a Democracy Now! interview.

PHOTO: International Bird Rescue Research CenterPHOTO: Brian Epstein, International Bird Rescue Research Center

ANIMALS RESCUED

The Gulf of Mexico is home to many unusual species of birds, sea turtles and marine mammals. It is impossible to get a good count of how many animals have been impacted by oil from the BP leak, but here is how many were collected as of August 31, 2010.

Birds 2037 alive 5401 dead
Sea turtles 520 alive 553 dead
Mammals 8 alive 81 dead

WHAT KIDS CAN DO

• Learn about energy and other sources of energy besides oil and teach others, too!
• Start or join an environmental club at your school.
• Find out who your U.S. House and Senate representatives are. Write to them about making stronger environmental laws to protect our environment from polluting industries.
• Ask your representatives to support alternative energy sources like wind and solar power.

BY THE NUMBERS

4.9 million: Total number of barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico from April 20 to July 15, 2010
42: Number of gallons in a barrel of oil
10%: Amount of oil spilled that has been cleaned up, as of August 2010, according to Bill Lehr of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
$6.1 billion: January-March 2010 BP profits

PHOTO:This girl joined hundreds of protesters in New Orleans on May 30 to demand that BP take action to clean up the leaked oil. People who made a living fishing for shrimp, oysters and crabs are now out of work. The back of her sign reads, “Will I ever be able to go fishing with my grandkids?” PHOTO: flickr.com/Ifrogmation of New Orleans