Monday, June 19, 2006

Environmental Disaster in Iraq

We frequently hear from politicians that the media is not spending enough time reporting the "good news" from Iraq. Well, there is certainly enough bad news to keep reporters busy. The problems are not limited to violence. Last night, the NY Times reported that the Iraqi Oil Ministry has dumped millions of barrels of petroleum waste into mountain valleys in northern Iraq and set the oil on fire. The result has severely threatened air quality in that region, as well as drinking water along the Tigris River from northern Iraq to Basra.

The scale of the problem is astounding - 40% of Iraq's crude oil production results in a waste product called "black oil." Under normal circumstances, this would be further refined for lower grade products. But Iraq's refineries, which still have not fully recovered from years of war and economic sanctions do not have this ability, and the political situation is apparently too unstable to ship it out of the country for further refining in foreign plants. So instead, large amounts of this precious resource are simply wasted and allowed to become a health threat to the people of Iraq.