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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
This despite a steady increase in the amount of oil transported
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