Friday, July 11, 2014

Join SOS California for a Santa Barbara Seep Tour!

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  Join Us Aboard    The Condor Express!

Thursday July 17, 2014
  Oil slick in the Santa Barbara Channel created by natural oil seeps         
  PHOTO: Courtesy of Michael Howe - 5/13/08   

We invite you to get a first hand look at the natural gas and oil seeps in the Santa Barbara Channel with the SOS See the Seeps Tour.

At 25 knots, the Condor Express will calmly whisk you up the coastline to Coal Oil Point, the site of  Santa Barbara County's prolific natural offshore seeps -- the largest in the western hemisphere!

Next you'll motor over to Platform Holly for an up-close view of a working oil platform. The size of this facility is astounding and the marine life it supports is unique and fun to watch.

The 25 minute ride back to the beautiful Santa Barbara Harbor should be relaxing and quite possibly include more marine surprises. This seeps tour is filled with history and education and is guaranteed to be a memorable experience for all.

We hope you will join us! 

10,000 gallons of raw crude oil seep naturally into the Santa Barbara Channel every day and is by far the greatest source  of petroleum pollution in California's coastal waters. 

Space is limited
Register NOW!


Date:  July 17, 2014  
Cost:  (cash/check at boarding)     
Adults - $20 donation
Children - Free (under 12 yrs)
Place:  Sea Landing Dock
301 W. Cabrillo Blvd, SB
Boards:    10:00 am
Departs:   10:30 am - Sharp!
Returns:   12:30 am
Dress:  Layers & comfortable shoes    

* Coffee, soda & snacks available    for purchase on board  

Registration required by July 15th

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Summer beach day - but what's that on my feet?

Sticky globules of tar lap up onto our coastline every day. It results from natural seeps that have been spewing oil and gas into the Santa Barbara Channel for centuries. Our beaches lie along the second largest natural seep area in the world – a field with 2,100 active seeps.

Santa Barbara offshore seeps pollute beaches from Los Angeles to Monterey. Read more about impacts south of Santa Barbara here.

There is a solution - read more about that here.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014


A 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck along the Aleutian Islands in Alaska at 1:53 p.m. PT. This event prompted a tsunami warning along the Pacific coast.

A propogation map shows the likely path of a tsunami from the June 23, 2014 Alaska earthquake. (NOAA)
A propogation map shows the likely path of a tsunami from the June 23, 2014 Alaska earthquake. (NOAA)

But are tsunamis the only threat to our coastline if a seismic event occurred?

According to Dr. Ed Keller, professor in the Departments of Earth Science and Geography, and in the Environmental Studies Program at UCSB, earthquakes in the seep areas are expected to occur, and can increase seep flow.

Following the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake, the Santa Barbara Channel was reportedly covered with thick patches of oil.

Now don't you feel shaky about seeps? Read more about it here.


Sunday, June 22, 2014


But how much longer can we? And how much will it cost us at the gas pump?

Yes, Iraq is still rocking.

Rockier still is the task of interpreting conflicting analyses of the impacts of this week's events on world, and US, oil supply.

Iraq's largest oil refinery was set ablaze this week. Smoke from the fire is visible from space.


Clearly the refinery, and the city, were attacked. But we don't yet know who controls the Baiji refinery, the largest in Iraq. Journalists are reporting that the militants are now in now control, but a military spokesman is denying the reports, according to Aljazeera.

In an interview with NPR, Robert McNally, president of the Rapidan Group, an energy consulting firm, reported that the price of oil climbed nearly 4% in just a few short days following the refinery attack, "This jaw-dropping blitz assault ... and the threat it posed to the Baiji refinery, the Baiji electrical power plant, and really the stability of Iraq itself, just caused the market to panic,"   Though the militants are still a long distance north from Iraq's main oil producing region of Basra, on the Persian Gulf, Amrita Sen, chief oil market analyst with Energy Aspects in London, says that distance doesn't provide much relief, for two reasons. "One, the militants are progressing towards the south very, very quickly. And two, the Iraqi army's complete inability to stop them ... The fear factor is huge in the market at the moment." McNally adds "There's also concern the Sunni militants' all-out charge through Iraq could spark widespread sectarian violence, possibly pulling in regional players."

Others say that 4% is a small blip and that an insurgence far enough to the south to impact the main producing areas is unlikely. A Vox  headline stated "ISIS surrounded Iraq's largest oil refinery. Why aren’t oil prices spiking?" The piece points out that the most important reason for the minimal reaction is that Baiji isn't important to the global oil supply, and quotes Steve Mufson of the Washington Post, who explains, "Baiji doesn't really export petroleum. It's mostly responsible for domestic supply, and largely within the areas contested by ISIS at that. Since Baiji doesn't produce for export, global markets aren't all that concerned."

But, as stated by The Economist,  " on so many occasions since 1980, war, sanctions and domestic upheaval have constrained the huge potential of OPEC’s second-biggest producer. The chances of restarting exports from northern Iraq (via a pipeline crippled by sabotage in March), and of investment and modernisation in the country’s south, are looking slimmer by the day."

But CNBC reports on a Citigroup analysis, which says that oil production could increase because of the conflict. "Our base case is in the short run, we do get more oil. That base case is based on the Kurdistan Regional Government maintaining its independence and security and Baghdad maintaining its control over the southern oil field," said Edward Morse, head of global commodities research at Citigroup.

Back and forth and forth and back...
Wouldn't it be better to not have to worry locally about an international situation over which we have no control?

Even with these conflicting predictions, one thing is abundantly clear. To quote Jordan Weismann's Moneybox blog on Slate,  Iraq's crisis should make us thankful for America's oil boom. As he states, this boom is making the world oil markets more resilient. Were it not for the US drilling revival, the market would be far less equipped to deal with even small disruptions, much less something catastrophic.

When can we add oil and gas production offshore Santa Barbara to this boom? SOS would be able to add "stabilization of world oil markets" to the list of local benefits including cleaner air, water, and beaches: increased funding for county services; and increased funding for renewables.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


SOS California was recently asked to testify at a hearing for the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee.  The title of the hearing was “Energy Independence:  Domestic Opportunities to Reverse California’s Growing Dependence on Foreign Oil.” In the hearing announcement, the Subcommittee stated, “Today, California gets 50 percent of its oil from foreign sources and half of those imports come from the Middle East through the Strait of Hormuz.”

According to the most recent data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), 18.5 percent of California’s oil imports are from Iraq.  

You’ve been listening to the news this week.  You must be asking yourself this:


If that vision isn’t graphic enough, look at the pie chart below.


The Energy Almanac website also shows a table that is equally shocking - Iraq is number 3 in our top favorites in dependence on foreign crude oil sources.

Fears surrounding the impact of the conflict on oil supply and prices are already appearing in the national and international press:
·         The Australian: Escalating violence in Iraq has sent crude oil prices to a nine-month high amid fears supplies could be disrupted. Sunni-led militants are tightening their grip on towns in the north and east of Iraq, sparking concerns that their advance south could put the output of the region's second-biggest oil producer at risk.
·         The New York Times: The oil markets are likely to remain on edge, as escalating tensions in Iraq prompt concerns over supplies in the major oil-producing country. Although a sharp spike in prices looks unlikely at this point, the fighting in Iraq and turmoil in other major oil producers are expected to keep prices relatively high, a situation that could put pressure on gasoline prices during the summer driving season.
·         NPR: When Sunni militants began seizing broad swathes of territory across northern Iraq last week, global oil markets shrugged it off. After all, instability in Iraq is nothing new. But that all changed on Wednesday, when the insurgents swept into the oil refinery town of Baiji, says Robert McNally, president of the Rapidan Group, an energy consulting firm. The price of oil climbed nearly 4 percent in just a few short days.
Why are we still depending on Iraqi oil when extracting oil from formations off Santa Barbara would clean our beaches, air and water? Isn’t it time to ROLL out a new energy strategy???

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Researchers at the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) study the seep fields. During a conversation with SOS Co-Founder Lad Handelman, Dr. Bruce Luyendyk, professor and Chair of the Department of Geological Sciences, estimated the amount of oil being released from seeps located south of Point Conception as at least 10,000 gallons each day.

Now this is really unusual - Dr. Luyendyk confirmed that there is a significant decrease in seep release and pressure as a result of the ongoing oil extraction from the very formations that feed the pollution off Coal Oil Point.
So the Santa Barbara Channel is leaking oil – the seeps have been called “an environmental disaster happening in slow motion.” Pretty unusual.
Another way this area is unusual - the Santa Barbara Channel is unusually rich in natural resources – resources that can be impacted by oil pollution. It is the only place in the world that serves as feeding and/or breeding grounds to 27 species of marine mammals. Recent studies have focused on the behavioral, thermal, and physiological impacts on marine mammals from contact, inhalation, and ingestion of oil.

Oil can be especially harmful to our resident and migrating seabirds—particularly diving birds that must get their nourishment by entering the water.  Oil destroys the insulation and waterproofing properties of their feathers - this can cause hypothermia. Also, birds that are unable to fly because of oil-matted feathers become easy prey. A review of recent data from the International Bird Rescue Research Center(IBRRC) and the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network (SBWCN) shows that, offshore between Ventura and San Luis Obispo, it’s likely there are approximately 600-800 birds per year (or more) that become oiled due to seeps.  An unknown number of those (perhaps 50-80%) die from hypothermia.

Seeps pollute the air as well, by releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. To put it in perspective, seeps contribute much more hydrocarbon pollution than all Santa Barbara surface mobile vehicles e.g. cars, trucks, trains and planes (Air Pollution Control District Clean Air Inventory, 2007).
Let's discuss - are there other ways to reduce pollution while gaining energy?

Sunday, June 1, 2014



We at SOS California have seen many changes in the last year. We saw great opportunities - collaboration with a local social media powerhouse leading to a revamp of our website; a re-invitation to testify to the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. But we felt a devastating blow - the loss of Co-Founder Bruce Allen. 
Spring is a season of renewal, though, so in that spirit, SOS California would like to reintroduce you to our blog, California Oil.
There is an old saying - that anything worth saying is worth saying twice. Maybe, I just made that up...
you will see some re-posting, but you'll see lots of new information as well. And, more than anything - WE WANT YOUR COMMENTS.

Santa Barbara, California is an unusual place.  Those of us who live here have chosen this place because we know this.  First there is the unusual beauty – an astonishing confluence of mountains and sea, on an east-west trending coastline in a southern state. This unusual geology also contributes to another interesting undersea phenomenon – natural oil seeps. The Santa Barbara Channel has the second largest natural oil seeps in the world – second only to the Caspian Sea. 

Oil released in large quantities by accident is considered pollution.  What, then, about oil seeps?  They are natural. In fact, it is estimated that the volume of oil emitted each year is equivalent to that of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil blowout, and every four years it approximates the oil spilled in connection with the Exxon Valdez accident.  Are these seeps a source of pollution?

We at Stop Oil Seeps (SOS) California believe that seep pollution, while it occurs naturally, is still simply that -- pollution -- and that there is a solution that falls into that “unusual” category.

Please stay tuned for future posts - and check out our revamped website: