Yes, the sea really did catch fire

Spare a thought for any songwriter who ever borrowed poet ee cummings’ beautiful phrase, “trust your heart if the seas catch fire”. It’s no longer just a powerful if hyperbolic expression of unending love. The sea has officially caught fire. Thanks, pollution.🙄

Last Friday a gas leak from an underwater pipeline sparked a blaze on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico;  Reuters reported that it took five hours to extinguish the fire. The internet, as is its way, lost its collective mind trying to make sense of the images: orange flames seeming to boil on the sea’s surface. 

The incident drew ire from climate activists and has also highlighted issues raised in a recent report by the US Government Accountability Office. In short, it found that there’s not nearly enough oversight of the huge network of active offshore oil and gas pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. 

Hopefully, though, some corporate accountability is coming: the Wall Street Journal reported this week that “some of the world’s largest oil companies have been ordered to pay part of a $7.2 billion tab to retire hundreds of ageing wells in the Gulf of Mexico that they used to own, capping a case that legal experts say is a harbinger of future battles over cleanup costs”. Makes sense to us – you make the mess, you clean it up. Here’s hoping some of the damage to the Gulf of Mexico can be fixed in the coming years.

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 08 July 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.