Local environmental groups respond to recent Gulf Coast oil spill, discuss its effects

Grace Johnson

The oil spill now devastating the Gulf Coast may seem far removed from Evanston, but activists in the city and in Chicago believe it could have indirect effects on the Great Lakes region as well.

The disaster makes the push for alternative energy options all the more important, said Max Muller, program director for Environment Illinois.

“The Gulf oil spill is a huge calamity. It’s terrible, but there is a positive effect,” Muller said. “It highlights what we’ve been saying for a long time about the risks of depending on oil.”

The indirect impacts of the oil spill in the Chicago area will include rising prices for seafood and oil, he said. On a national level, energy legislation currently moving through the Senate may be shaped by the spill as well.

There is a certain personal responsibility every driver also must take for the spill, said Celia Michener, a member of the steering committee for Citizens for a Greener Evanston.

“There wouldn’t be a demand for oil if it wasn’t for us,” she said. “All of us here use that oil; we are the customers it is getting drilled for.”

The disaster should also resonate with Chicago residents as offshore drilling in the Great Lakes is not out of the question, Muller said.

“There’s been, until very recently, talk of drilling in the Great Lakes,” he said. “Some of the Great Lakes states have moratoriums on drilling, but there has still been interest. This is a cautionary tale about drilling.”

– Grace Johnson