Guessing It’s the Rigs

Thursday, March 21, 2013
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My name is Amelie, and I am 10 and 3/4 years old. On my last visit to California, I went to a beach in Santa Barbara with my family, and I was disappointed to see that we couldn’t get into the water because there was oil and tar and a strong smell of gasoline on the beach. We are guessing that this was because there were 27 oil rigs by the coast, and 7 were very close to the shore, and they caused both oil and tar to wash up on the beach. On top of that, I am concerned about the sea life in the water. So much oil and tar cannot make the water there a healthy environment to live in. I can’t help but wonder if, in 10 years or so, lots of beaches will look like that because the ocean always moves.

I’m not sure if anything can be done, but I do have some ideas on how to improve the state of polluted beaches. For one thing, you might want to do something about the oil rigs, like build a wall to keep the polluted water separate from the healthy water. Do we really need so many oil rigs? I really don’t think that 27 oil rigs are needed. The community of Santa Barbara could host a community clean-up day, and all pitch in to help tidy up the messy beaches. On the other hand, the oil company should pay for the damage done to the beach and wildlife, or at least pay to clean up the beach. Why should harmless sea life and citizens have their beach messed up because of the oil rigs?

I hope that you can help me shed light on this issue so that when other kids and I are older we can still enjoy a good swim, or a walk on the beach, or even have a good surf, as will our kids, and their kids, and their kids’ kids’ kids!


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Unfortunately, the USA hates money so much that the government gives it away to the most wealthy people (read: corporations) in the form of subsidies and tax loopholes. The wealthiest of these people are oil companies. Also, there is a natural seep of oil in the ocean here. We learned in school here that the Chumash (original locals) used it to seal their canoes. Apparently, the people drilling the oil out of the ground haven't figured out how to tap the seep or clean up their own mess (who knows, they might even contribute to the seeping). It appears that when one is too busy counting or spending money, they get too lazy to be creative or clean up after themselves.

spacey (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2013 at 1:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Totally inaccurate. The oil that washes up on shore in natural seepage. To the dismay of local beach-goers, sticky globules of tar lap up onto our coastline every day. This tar is an annoyance to many of us and is often perceived to be a man-made pollutant. In fact, the tar results from huge, natural seeps that have been spewing oil and gas into the Santa Barbara Channel for centuries. Although you are correct...huge pollution endangering our sea life !!!!! It is estimated that oil seepage for a single 6-mile stretch, including Coal Oil Point, averages 10,000 gallons of oil each day (240 barrels). Every 12 months about 86,000 barrels of oil seep into the ocean—the equivalent of the quantity of oil spilled in the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara. Since 1970, the quantity of oil that naturally seeps into the Santa Barbara Channel equals ~ 31 "1969" oil spills.

skaterspoint (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2013 at 8:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry Amelie, the oil on the beaches was a lot worse before we started pumping oil and effectively decreasing the outward pressure. Most locals know this fact.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2013 at 10:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Amelie, your experience of smelling gasoline and seeing tar on the beach and in the water is shared with many visitors and locals alike, as is your assumption regarding the source of this pollution. However, you are incorrect - the oil comes from natural seeps (the second largest in the world), which means that oil and gas are leaking to the surface through cracks that connect to deep underground pools. But you are correct to be concerned about wildlife. These seeps are an ongoing source of pollution. SOS California exists to educate the public about the source of pollution and the fact that the amount of seepage is reduced only by reducing the amount of oil in the pools that feed it. Learn more at

AliceGreen (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2013 at 11:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice bit of astroturfing by AliceGreen:

Surfrider Foundation has a dim opinion of SOSCalifornia ("Dr. Luyendyk is more than a little upset with SOS’s liberal interpretation of his work..."), and the speculation that DRILL BABY DRILL solves the seepage problem:

" Myth 4: Increased offshore oil production will reduce natural seepage.
The Truth: Increased offshore drilling has not been proven to decrease seepage and could actually increase seepage. (See Below) The suggestion that increased oil production will reduce natural seepage is based on the misinterpretation of a single study that reported a 50% reduction in seepage between 1973 and 1995 in a 1 km2 area immediately around Platform Holly (Quigley et al. 1999).

The study’s authors propose that this decrease is a result of oil production at Platform Holly but caution that their evaluation is limited by a small study area and thus that a “change in seep distribution farther from Holly is unknown.” There is no evidence of an overall decline in seepage in the greater Coal Oil Point seep field. The decline attributed to drilling is too limited relative to the entire seep field to conclude that increased drilling will result in decreased seepage (Ger 2003).

Furthermore, no significant changes in seepage between 1996 and 1999 have been found (Luyendyk and Egland 2001, as cited in Del Sontro 2006) even though oil production continued. In fact, drilling practices may increase seepage. A common practice in oil production is the injection of fluids or gas created during production back into reservoirs in order to maintain pressure to force more oil and gas out. This practice can contribute to natural seepage.

For example, one of the stated impacts of the recently proposed Venoco Ellwood Full Field Development Project is increased natural oil and gas seepage as a result of waste water reinjection into formations that contribute to natural seepage (DEIR p. 4.1-27). Accidents due to oil production can also increase seepage. For instance, seepage in the vicinity of Platform A is attributed to a blowout caused by well drilling which resulted in fissures forming on the sea floor and expelling oil (Wilkinson 1973)."

djfranchise (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2013 at 11:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

To be fair Ms. Green is not guilty atrotrurfing because she uses her real name, is entirely upfront about who she is, who she represents etc.
While her reasoning is sound, her solution is the wrong one, but at least she is sincere and I respect that.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2013 at 12:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I stand corrected on my charge of 'astroturfing.'

When you do it as part of your job it's called "flacking."

djfranchise (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2013 at 12:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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