The 2010 BP Horizon oil spill inflicted an estimated $17.2 billion in damage to the natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a new study.
“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,” said Kevin Boyle, a professor of agricultural and applied economics in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and one of the authors of the study.
The study was launched in May 2010, one month after the oil spill, by 18 researchers commissioned by the.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The researchers conducted a national survey to place a dollar value on the natural resources damaged by the 134-million-gallon spill, the largest in U.S. history. The first round of surveys was administered face-to-face with trained interviewers while the remaining surveys were completed by mail.
Survey participants were asked how much they would pay in a hypothetical one-time tax to prevent a repeat of the damage the spill did to beaches, marshes, animals, fish, and coral.
The average household was willing to pay $153 for a prevention program which multiplied by the number of households sampled totaled $17.2 billion.
The research, to be published in Science this week, is the first comprehensive study of the spill’s financial impact on natural resources.
“Our estimate can guide policy makers 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,” said Boyle. “People value our natural resources, so it’s worth taking major actions to prevent future catastrophes and correct past mistakes.”
Photo Credit: US Coast Guard