The top source of ocean oil pollution is surprisingly not tankers, pipelines, or even offshore rigging– it’s our cars.

Source: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park/YouTube

According to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, all of the petroleum that is spilled from leaky oil tankers, broken pipelines, and toppled drilling rigs do not even compare to the amount that washes into the oceans from land-based sources, including motor vehicles.

The report found that from 2010 to 2019, land-based sources leaked an estimated 1.2 million metric tons of petroleum each year. They found that 380 tons were spilled per year from pipelines, 200 tons from tank vessel spills, and 66,500 tons from platforms and other activities.

“The top source of oil in the ocean is land-based runoff, at an estimated volume up to 20 times higher than was reported two decades ago. Most of this pollution occurs through water from rain or snowmelt carrying oil, primarily from cities and vehicles, to rivers and ultimately into the ocean,” a press release about the report said.

“Runoff from highways, parking lots, vehicle washing, and vehicle fluid leaks all contribute. Quantifying exact amounts and the contribution of specific activities remains difficult due to a lack of data.”

The report highlights the need for our governments and agencies to monitor rivers and harbors for runoff from sources such as gas stations. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently does not monitor these things, which makes it hard to truly know how much is making its way to the oceans each year.

According to the prior edition of the same report, land-based pollution is much worse than it was 20 years ago when that report was released. That report estimated 54,000 tons per year compared to the 1.2 million metric tons estimated now.

“The report recommends that the U.S. government conduct a comprehensive review of the integrity of coastal and offshore energy infrastructure to ensure it can withstand more frequent and more intense weather events due to climate change,” the press release read. “This includes reviewing and updating design criteria to withstand extreme events, assessing the modifications that will need to be made to existing structures to prevent spills, and developing response plans and capabilities for extreme weather events. Agencies should inventory inactive or abandoned oil and gas infrastructure and prioritize salvage or capping based on the impact of their potential failure.”

While we need to cut off our dependence on fossil fuels as quickly as possible, we also must remember another major industry that is causing harm to the environment; the meat and dairy industry. A study even found that meat and dairy companies are responsible for more harm to the environment than fossil fuels. The public has had enough. Protestors in the UK are blocking oil terminals despite hundreds of arrests, and celebrities like Jane Fonda have launched committees to fight political candidates funded by the fossil fuel industry.

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Sign this petition to demand the United States and European Union heavily invest in wind and solar to reduce reliance on fossil fuels!

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