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Welcome to Matt Ridley's Blog
Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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Oil spills

Bad news from oil spills has been getting rarer, though that may be of little comfort right now

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a horror, for people and for wildlife. It will surely cause huge damage. It is a reminder that for all the talk of global impacts, the worst environmental crises are still local ones.

But it is worth pausing to reflect how rare such terrible oil spills have now become. Here is the data on world tanker spills over the past 40 years:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This despite a steady increase in the amount of oil transported by sea.

It is notable that 1979 saw not only the worst ever tanker spill -- the collision oif the Atlantic Empress with the Aegean Captain off Trinidad -- but also the worst ever rig spill: the IXTOC1 platform off Mexico, which spilled 138 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico before it was capped. The current spill is thought to be leaking 200,000 gallons a day. The environmental effects of the IXTOC disaster were severe, but have not proved permanent. Not that this will be of great comfort to the people of Louisiana and neighbouring states.