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Source: Long Island Herald

The oil spill and what it means to Long Island

Environmentalist discusses gulf crisis at East Meadow Public Library


Posted: July 22, 2010
Originally Published: July 22, 2010

Image of CCE's Adrienne Esposito and Tara Bono at the oil spill presentation.

Adrienne Esposito, right, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, spoke with Tara Bono about the gulf oil spill at the East Meadow Public Library on July 15.

A Long Island environmentalist marked the 86th day of the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast on July 15 with a presentation to the community at the East Meadow Public Library about the disaster and what can be done locally to help in the future.

The speaker was Adrienne Esposito, who is the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, calls the oil spill the largest environmental disaster in history.

So far, reports show that 1,500 million gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf. If the leak continues, some predict it could possibly go up the East Coast as far as North Carolina.

However, with tides and currents, Esposito explained it is almost impossible to know exactly where the oil could end up. The Long Island Sector of the Coast Guard said it is 95 to 99 percent certain the oil will not make it to Long Island beaches. If it does, the most vulnerable area would be the South Shore, they said. A hurricane could expedite the process, sweeping the oil further up the East Coast, but the Coast Guard has researched what would happen in this situation.

If the winds from a hurricane brought oil to Long Island, the Coast Guard says the winds would be strong enough to break up the oil into smaller particles that are easier to manage.

Esposito said she is shocked the federal government did not have a better plan for this type of disaster. The techniques that are being used to clean up the oil seem amateurish for the technology that should be available in 2010, she said.

The people helping to clean up the oil are using inflatable floating lines to contain oil on the water's surface called “booms,” but the effectiveness of the booms is debatable. Volunteer cleaners are also using plastic bags to catch the oil that are just being tossed into landfills.

Esposito explained that with the huge demand for oil, the time is now to start making a transition to other forms of energy, like wind and solar. “Large-scale wind and large-scale solar are our two best options today, “she said.

The United States is the only country in the world without off-shore wind farms- The Great Lakes Offshore Wind project (GLOW) aims to place wind turbines in the Great Lakes. However, there are disagreements about the project.

Esposito blames misinformation about wind energy as a main culprit in the argument against wind farms. Some critics believe wind turbines are dangerous to wildlife. According to facts presented during the presentation, statistics show that two to three birds are killed a year per turbine.

Another bone of contention is the aesthetics of a wind farm. Esposito said she understands that people do not want to look at huge turbines in the middle of a lake or a large body of land, but she pointed out that saying no to something, says yes to something else. “No to wind, means yes to fossil fuels,” she said.

The cost of generating wind and solar power also fuels the debate against the alternative energies. “We have alternative energies, but they have to be affordable,” said Jude Schanzer, Director of Public Relations at the library.

Esposito addressed that solar energy is expensive, but she said that growing efficiencies are driving the cost down. As for wind turbines on Long Island, members of the community have mixed feelings, not necessarily about the benefits of wind energy but about the placement of the wind farms.

Audrey Sehiller, an East Meadow resident, said she would be willing to overlook aesthetics for wind energy, but she has her doubts.

“If they want to put up with it, that’s fine,” she said.- “As long as they have someone to take care of it, but do they have a place to put it?”

Location of the wind turbines would be an issue since one of the main problems is how the turbines look.

However, Sandra Wassmer of East Meadow believes the turbines would look fine along the boardwalks.- “I don’t think they look bad,” she said.- “I saw them in Palm Springs, California, I thought they looked pretty all turning in the wind and everything.”

Esposito wants people to start looking at the bigger picture in terms of alternative energies and the benefits that will come from them in the future.

“When we look at cost, we have to look at the cost of wind compared with the cost of oil and when we look at the cost of oil, we need to look at it over 20 years like we do with wind,” she said.