Hint: It’s a lot
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Need a reason to participate in Saturday’s March for Science? Look no further than a new report revealing the unfathomable damage the Gulf of Mexico incurred as a result of the 2010 BP oil spill. According to a paper published in the journal Science on Thursday, Americans are willing to pay $17.2 billion to prevent another BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Thanks to a team of scientists who conducted a six-year study into the effects of the 134-million-gallon spill, we now have a more accurate picture of the devastating consequences—and also how desperately we want to reduce our dependency.
To relate the true damages of an oil spill of this magnitude, researchers set out to equate the damage in monetary terms, as so often we view natural resources as permanent and limitless. In order to arrive at the $17.2 billion figure, scientists surveyed households across the country to see how much they’d be willing to pay to avoid similar spills in the future. Along with asking participants these questions, the study authors included detailed accounts of the damage already done to beaches, animals, marine life, and marshland. As one of the paper’s authors, Kevin Boyle, explained to Virginia Tech News, “This is proof that our natural resources have an immense monetary value to citizens of the United States who visit the Gulf and to those who simply care that this valuable resource is not damaged.”
Commissioned by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration one month after the 2010 spill, the long-awaited study can now give us some insight into the actual dollar value of devastating the environment. What they also found was an overwhelming public willingness to put hard-earned cash into prevention funds. According to the survey, the majority of households said they’d willingly pay $153 each for prevention measures. Adding up all the reported figures led researchers to the $17.2 billion total.
On this note, Boyle told Virginia Tech News,
“The results were eye-opening in that we could tell how much people really value marine resources and ecosystems. And even more meaningful because we did additional analysis that proved the legitimacy of oft-criticized values for environmental resources. … Our estimate can guide policymakers and the oil industry in determining not only how much should be spent on restoration efforts for the Deepwater spill, but also how much should be invested to protect against damages that could result from future oil spills.”
Now it’s just a matter of convincing our elected officials to put in the effort to effectively prevent environmental disasters of this magnitude from happening in the future. Clearly, it’s what the people want.