Iowa Public Television


Gulf Oil Spill Capped But Recovery Far From Over

posted on August 6, 2010

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. A weaker-than-expected report on the U.S. job market pressured Wall Street this week, reflecting investor concerns over the slow pace of hiring.

According to the Labor Department, private employers added just 71,000 jobs in July. Since the figure was about a third of the 200,000 new positions needed each month to indicate expansion, the nation's unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.5 percent.

The lesser-quoted "underemployment rate" --which includes full time workers who've taken part-time positions, and those who've given up looking for work -- also matched June's figures, at 16.5 percent.

Investors reacted bearishly to the Unemployment report, selling stocks and shifting the funds to more conservative Treasury bonds. All the major stock indexes declined with the Dow dropping more than 130 points in early trading Friday.

So far this year, private employers have added just 559,000 new hires. At that rate, it will take years to recover the 8.4 million positions lost to the recession in 2008 and 2009.

But progress WAS noted in the Gulf of Mexico this week, when BP announced it had the upper hand on plugging a leak, caused by an oil rig explosion in April which killed 11 workers. Nevertheless, all of the Gulf waters are far from pristine, and once again scientists are pointing the finger at agriculture.

More than 100 days after an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, government officials claimed victory this week over the largest oil spill in American history. A combination of relief wells, containment caps, and a procedure dubbed, "static kill," has largely stopped the uncontrolled release of crude oil. But damage to the region's ecosystem -- and the local economy -- are only beginning to be tallied.

Federal officials estimate the Deepwater Horizon spill released more than 200 million gallons of crude into Gulf waters. Thousands of square miles of prime offshore fishing grounds have been shutdown for months and Louisiana lawmakers are demanding quick action.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-Louisiana:

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (GIN-dull) announced the reopening of some state waters this week. And some of the region's parish presidents, pleaded for a BP-funded food-testing program.

Billy Nungesser, Plaquemines Parish President:

But Gulf fisherman and the region's tourist industry are holding their breath as government officials have yet to declare all Gulf waters safe. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, claims as much as 50 percent of the oil spill has been cleaned, dispersed, or have broken-down naturally.

While terms like "disastrous" and "cataclysmic" all have been used to describe the BP Spill, the tragedy actually is NOT the worst man-made disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. And this week, residents were reminded once again of the scope of environmental degradation caused by other pollutants in the Gulf which have come to be known as the "Dead Zone."

Researchers at the Louisiana Marine Consortium, or LUMCON, finished their annual mapping of the low-oxygen, hypoxic area off the state's coastline and discovered a "dead zone" the size of Massachusetts.

According to LUMCON, this year's dead zone is among the top five-largest since testing began in the mid-1980's. Researchers credit much of the Dead Zone to nitrate loads from the Mississippi River. Lead scientist Dr. Nancy Rabalais says urban areas have contributed to the problem, but she insists the major cause of the Dead Zone is runoff from Midwestern farm fields.

Dr. Nancy Rabalais, LUMCON:


Tags: BP disasters Gulf of Mexico news oil oil spills