Mega oil spill reaches Indonesian Coast

A leaking oil rig off the north-western coast of Australia has been spewing oil into the marine environment for over two months.  Whilst there has been intermittent publicity about the ongoing oil spill, it certainly hasn’t galvanised wide-scale public concern in Australia.
I have to confess that, like Northern Territory based blogger Bob Gosford, I am perplexed as to why this massive oil spill does not appear to have generated a huge amount of concern. There have been some questions asked in the Australian Senate, and the occasional media probing, but not a huge amount of detail on the environmental, economic and diplomatic consequences.

Perhaps this is because the oil slick is off the coast from a very lightly populated part of Australia, and also that much of the slick is drifting away from Australia and towards Indonesia and East Timor.  But even if the direct impact of the oil slick is felt more in parts of other countries, this is something which should be of concerns to Australians too.

Bob Gosford’s post on this topic notes a report in the Jakarta Post which among other things, states that the oil slick had reached land and damaged thousands of hectares of ready-to-harvest seaweed.

“Seaweed, which is one of the province’s prime commodities, has been polluted. If the farmers fail to harvest their seaweed, they would incur losses of up to billions of rupiah,” said the West Timor Care Foundation NGO director Ferdi Tanoni.

WWF-Australia have travelled through some of the huge areas of ocean which have now been affected by the continuing oil spill.  Details of  their findings can be found at this link.

The SkyTruth blog has done a huge number of posts on the oil spill, using lots of satellite imagery.  This blog by a former resident of East Timor also contains plenty of information  and links.

Three attempts to plug the link have already failed. Another effort is expected to be made soon.

(First posted at Asian Correspondent)

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  1. Australia ,specifically Garrett has shown no spirit of leadership on this problem.I am deeply saddened by the plight of Indonesians.I cannot be convinced the Australian end of activity has not performed well. Even looking up oil recovery sites myself,I cannot tell wether the cleanup meets even those expectations.has performed well.I cannot know what length of Indonesian coastline and seaweed mass are effected.There have been many attempts over the years to reduce completely the impact of oil spills ecologically,which doesn’t mean much in these circumstances.

  2. My full agreement Philip and also Bartlett’s blog.

    I have often wondered how it is that the oil and gas industry is able to persist with the claim that their operations are worlds best practice, when we have regular spills around the Australian coastline; and that the Government (of each political leaning) persist with the claim that they are responsibly regulating.

    Last week the Government and industry released their joint monitoring programme – a good six weeks after the spill started. Even a cursory read of document reveals how much baseline information has to be gathered, which begs the question why was this not collected before the drilling began?

    There is no mention of monitoring any impacts to Indonesian ecosystems.

    The document also contains unsubstantiated statements that impacts of the oil spill on marine animals ‘remain unlikely’. The document claims that experts have been consulted, so why then does civil society need to remind policy makers that marine animals can ingest oil-derived toxic compounds either directly from the water or with their food. That poisonous vapor can also be inhaled by whales and dolphins and especially when the volatile components evaporate into the air from freshly spilled oil.

    With anywhere from 10 to 20 million litres of oil spilled into the ocean it is a good bet that there will be chronic longer-term effects of oil entering the food-chain potentially affecting the whole system. Much of this will happen far from sight and if marine animals are killed or otherwise affected – days, months and years into the future – we are unlikely to be witness to this.

    None of this information is particularly ground breaking nor new. We have know most of this information for a few decades. Why then is this not openly admitted? And more to the point why is it that there is minimal public (and media) concern?

  3. Yes, it certainly is perplexing, especially considering the huge effort to clear Queensland beaches of oil in recent times, but that was probably done to minimise impact on the tourism industry.

    Maybe it’s more difficult to get rid of oil when it’s still in the water, but I thought it could be sprayed with some kind of detergent. Fixing the leak itself would be a good plan.

    Some might think the Australian government is using a new form of warfare – economic sabotage of other people’s seaweed and fishing industries.

  4. I’m not that sure that marine life hasn’t been effected. I heard a young woman from an environment group(WWF ?) say that the people she was with saw a dolphin covered in oil. Oil in their blow hole would kill them I suspect. The way the govt has dealt with this is nothing short of disgraceful, and according to news a few days ago, the company responsible has been granted another licence to perhaps do it all over again? Shameful! As it’s not coming close to shore they’re ignoring it – out of our sight, out of their mind!

  5. Much has transpired since Bartlett’s original comment . The spill, of course, continues to flow out into the marine environment and atmosphere (not forgetting that light crude and gas are both leaking), the Government’s rapid assessment has reported significant number of animals within the slick … oh, and now the rig is on fire!

    By anyone’s standards this is now a major environmental disaster, and politicians are baying for blood. The next week will almost certainly focus on who is to blame, and less attention will be focused on the enormity of the tragedy.

    After ten weeks into the uncontrolled and continuing oil and gas spill from the Montara wellhead, with anywhere from 10 to 20 million litres of oil spilled into the ocean, the Rapid Assessment of the Impacts of the Montara Oil Leak on Birds, Cetaceans and Marine Reptiles has positively identified at least 4 species of cetaceans – 462 individuals (along with 23 species of birds, 2 species of turtles and 4 species of sea snakes).

    Andrew Crook, on, has asked will Timor Sea oil slick be curtains for bluefin tuna? Good question really, given the tuna’s status is already precarious after decades of over fishing and the spill is in the bluefin spawning grounds.

    WDCS has said this week: “We still don’t see the commitment we expect from the Australian Government. If they were serious about mitigating the threats of oil spills they would immediately freeze all new oil and gas exploration applications; develop much stronger conditions and controls over all oil and gas rig and shipping activities including contingency plans before approvals are given; and identify and fully protect all whale and dolphin critical habitats in a network of marine sanctuaries before any oil and gas acreage is released again” Another good point.

    Shame we wont hear much media discourse about any of this, as we drag ourselves towards week 11 of this disaster.

  6. Yes, its amazing how the political parties loses the hairy-chested “wise father ” bit they demonstrate toward those at the bottom of the heap, when it comes to dealing with big business. And it never ceases to amaze me, this spirit of cooperation shown between governments and the tabloid press and media, when it comes to dumbing down or “disappearing” genuinely serious and suggestive examples of ecological or social problems that the powers that be find uncomfortable at being confronted with and required to act on, on the basis of scientific evidence.
    No doubt some noticed the two examples of science dumbed down with a loud “shsshh!!”, for throwing unwelcome facts into a given discussion.
    In England the intellectually bankrupt and shellshocked remnants of Third Way Labour eagerly stomped on the head physician at their drugs advisory committee, for advising against the demonising of cannabis, as it mounts a desperation driven tabloid “get tough on dope” campaign, to win back a terminally alienated public salivating on an upcoming election in a way not seen since the crushing of John Major’s Tories in the mid nineties. The distinguished scientist’s removal has been followed by others members of his board, standing in solidarity with him for his scientifically informed comments on the relative dangers of various of various licit and illicit substances, that defacto, implied the Brown government was overreacting to cannabis.
    In Australia, CSIRO likewise came down on a top climate scientist for comments questioning the efficacy of the Rudd government’s pet carbon trading trading scheme, actually condemned as too “harsh” by the opposition. The scientist proposed as a more effective alternative, an enforcable carbon tax which would have been dreadfully inconvenient for government and opposition alike, so CSIRO came down on this scientist like a ton of bricks for going public on an issue that is his speciality and was asked to provide advice on, in the first place.

  7. Paul Walter:

    Yes, we know what the CSIRO is like. First they complain that cattle are warming the globe with too much passing of gas. Then they get the Meat and Livestock Corporation to sponsor “The CSIRO Diet” which is top heavy with meat.

    The boss of the CSIRO says we can produce enough food to feed 60 million people, with new farming methods and superior seed. Then she starts having a cow about climate change, with country people being pushed into the cities by drought, and those living by the sea being pushed inland to the cities by rising sea levels.

    The government wants to do the same with food as it intends to do with natural gas – sell nearly all of it for a song to overseas countries (mostly China), while we pay a fortune for the crumbs.

    While groups concerned about population growth are busy complaining, Rudd is bumping up population as if there is no tomorrow.

    It seems astounding that the government has taken so long to try to plug the oil leak being discussed here. I don’t think they cared one jot before the fires broke out.

    I think we need to face the fact that we being dealt a mishmash of ideas and responses across a number of portfolios, in a (failed) attempt to confuse us regarding the actual agenda.

    The government clearly wants to export nearly every resource we have to anyone who wants it (mostly China) at bargain basement prices, and import workers from other countries to increase unemployment and reduce wages.

    Last night on the TV news, they said 10,000 workers would be required for the Gorgon Project (natural gas).

    I’m sure Julia Gillard said some time ago that she intended to reduce the wages of people working on oil rigs with her Industrial Relations Streamlining. No doubt the same attitude will be applied to people working on the Gorgon Project.

    Only yesterday I heard that most of our recycling industries (including tyres and whole vehicles) are being sent offshore.

    Patriots would seem to be a dying breed in this country.

  8. Paul Walter:

    Well, what did you find funny?

    I suppose I should have also mentioned Professor Robin Batterham who did the National Press Club address this week.

    He sang the same mixed tune as the CSIRO CEO regarding climate change and the likely effects on population (food growing capacity, population movement to cities), before saying we would be exporting most of the food we produce. Remember we are supposed to be living on the driest continent on earth!

    He said the globe had warmed and then had cooled for 7 years, before he settled on the hotter side of the argument.

    He said there was heaps of brown coal under the sea, and a layer of methane floating above, which could be used to generate electricity.

    Another day, I saw a scientist talking about carbon sequestration. He seemed to think more land should be used for grazing rather than cropping.

    In San Francisco, they are talking about making people get rid of their large flat screen TVs because they use too much power.

  9. No, no, no, Lorikeet!
    You have missed my point altogether. I was suggesting diametrically the opposite.
    I don’t agree with your final comment, last, entirely tho. tho. Teev is a want or a luxury, not a necessity.
    I won’t pay for Foxtel and so much of TV is exploitative, sleazy garbage, apart from the occasional thought -provoking thing on ABC or SBS. Like you, am just as likely found here with other refugees from the more crass extremes of modern “culture”, trying to learn and think for my self again, at sites like this

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