Thursday, October 29, 2009

Environmental Disaster? or...Welcome Habitat for Endangered Species

This is an article published in The Onion in 2002. This is typical of the satiric articles written at the Onion. Consider this our Halloween Howl posting. Happy reading!

Sunken Oil Tanker Will Be Habitat For Marine Life, Shell Executives Say With Straight Face

October 23, 2002 | Issue 38•39

HOUSTON, TX—The 1,080-foot, 300,000-ton oil tanker Shell Global Explorer, which sank off the coast of Newfoundland last month, will provide a welcome habitat for many diverse species of endangered marine life, Shell Oil Company executives announced with a straight face Tuesday.

The new habitat, moments before sinking.

"In its new resting place, far beneath the surface of the North Atlantic, the Global Explorer is host to countless fish and an infinite variety of marine vegetation," a press release from Shell read without a trace of irony. "A ship that once helped run life above the waves now houses life beneath them."

The reading of the press release preceded public statements from Shell executives.

"We in the petroleum industry have long believed that we have a responsibility to protect and conserve the environment in our daily business operations," said Shell CEO Steven L. Miller to reporters in the face of all available evidence. "We view this commitment to projects that will conserve and protect the marine ecosystem as an important investment in our future."

"At Shell, we're proud to provide a niche for the struggling denizens of our oceans," said Shell vice-president of international shipping Dennis Gallsworthy, who apparently intended his words to be taken seriously.

Somehow maintaining his composure despite being able to hear the things he was saying, Gallsworthy added, "We have a strong commitment to protecting and preserving sea life."

On Sept. 27, radio messages from the tanker indicated it had suffered extensive damage to its hull following an explosion, which pierced its overloaded crude-oil tanks. By the time the ship slid to the bottom, Shell public-relations officials were touting its potential as an artificial habitat, often while looking straight into reporters' eyes.

"The many species of fish native to Newfoundland's Grand Banks have in recent years increasingly struggled to find feeding and breeding grounds," Miller said, as if Shell were deeply concerned with these circumstances and not, in fact, partially at fault for them. "We must take all available steps to help reestablish these species in their native waters."

Hoping to both deflect blame and take an opportunity for self-promotion, Miller took aim at the commercial fishing industry without so much as a smirk.

"The Global Explorer's new resting place will provide shelter for countless threatened, often over-harvested fish," he said. "At Shell, we're proud to use our multibillion-dollar, globe-spanning resources to aid a worthy environmental cause."

To see the rest of the article, click here.


Yes, it's a good chuckle. But what isn't so funny is that on our coast, shipments of crude oil have been increasing. Last year, thirty-four crude oil tankers were loaded through Westridge Marine Terminal in Burrard Inlet. And I would hazard that it is more a question of when there will be an accident, rather than if.

If you consider the number of near misses there have been in the last ten years, we've been incredibly lucky. And if proposed pipeline expansions go ahead, it may be that our luck will run out.

To find out more about the proposed BC pipeline expansion project, visit our website at

No comments:

Post a Comment