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The main source of oil pollution in the ocean isn’t the leaking tanker, pipeline or offshore installation – it’s your car

The main source of oil pollution in the ocean isn't the leaking tanker, pipeline or offshore installation - it's your car

All of the petroleum spilled from leaking oil tankers, busted pipelines and overturned oil rigs — including the Deepwater Horizon — pales in comparison to the amount that washes into the sea from land-based sources, primarily motor vehicles, according to one new report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

From 2010-19, those land-based sources leaked an estimated 1.2 million tons of petroleum per year, which made its way to the sea, according to the report, compared with 380 tons per year from pipeline leakage, 200 tons from tanker spills, and 66,500 tons from platforms and other extractive activities. Most of that latter figure — 57,000 tons of it — comes from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The main source of oil in the ocean is discharge on land, with an estimated volume up to 20 times higher than reported two decades ago,” said one press release belong to the report. “Most of this pollution occurs from water from rain or melting snow that carries oil, primarily from cities and vehicles, to rivers and eventually into the ocean. Highway runoff, parking lots, vehicle washing and vehicle fluid leaks all contribute Bee.”

The second largest source is the seepage of natural oil, at about 100,000 tons per year.

The report warns that government agencies, including the EPA, do not monitor rivers and ports for runoff from “non-point sources” such as cars and gas stations, making it difficult to quantify the amounts that actually reach the sea and the resulting effects.

Pollution on land seems much worse than it was 20 years ago, when the previous edition of the same report estimated it at 54,000 tons per year. However, the report sees some prospects for improvement over the next 20 years thanks to engine oil recycling, improved fuel efficiency and the electrification of transportation.

These “personal and industrial practices for controlling non-point pollution … will have the added benefit of reducing runoff on land.”