Oil is an integral part of our daily lives. From filling up our gas tanks to turning on our heater or air conditioning, oil is there every step of the way.
But the use of oil and other fossil fuels comes with some hidden, disastrous costs.
The recent pipeline oil leak that occurred off the coast of Huntington Beach, in California, is an example of the true costs of fossil fuels and a harbinger of what will become of our society if we do not make fossil fuels a thing of the past.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, on Oct. 2, a ship’s anchor hit the San Pedro Bay Pipeline that runs 17 miles from Huntington Beach to Long Beach, creating a 13- inch hole that allowed oil to spill out. Over 25,000 gallons were spilled and created a 13-mile oil slick down the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
Upon investigation, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration found that Beta Offshore, the subsidiary company to the operator of the San Pedro Bay Pipeline, failed to report and shut down the pipeline until six hours after the first alarm was triggered. In other words, there was six hours’ worth of preventable spillage of oil in the ocean.
The surrounding wildlife and communities have both become victims of the oil slick, causing severe environmental and economic issues. The invasion of
the oil has wreaked havoc on wetland habitats that are home to an array of endangered species, killed numerous marine animals and forced businesses near the coast to shut down.
Although this oil spill is not the biggest or most devastating one California has experienced, its impacts demonstrate the immense perils of relying on and managing fossil fuels. The impacts are also exemplary of the ever-growing need for states to eliminate offshore fossil fuel extraction.
Furthermore, Gonzaga University should use this tragic event to highlight just how important it is to shift away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy.
Back in 2010, GU became a signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, pledging the university’s commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. Yet, today, GU still has a 5.8% endowment investment, which equals about $12.4 million, with fossil fuel industries.
This association, with companies that have the potential to inflict the kind of harm seen in the Huntington Beach oil spill, is hypocritical at best. GU simply cannot claim to be committed to a sustainable future while simultaneously investing in fuels that are degrading our environment.
The events and impacts of the oil spill highlight that GU’s mission should be to completely divest from fossil fuels and accelerate the adoption of renewable energy.
Merely pledging to be environmentally conscious is not enough. It is exceedingly necessary for GU to take the leap and invest in renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind energy companies.
With the ever-accelerating impacts of climate change, if we do not adopt the mission of transitioning to renewable energy, we will see more and more conservation crises that are similar to and worse than the Huntington Beach pipeline leak.