Greatest Fossil Fuel Disasters In Human History

The fallout from the Louisiana oil rig explosion is continuing to be horrendous, and efforts to stop the damage aren't looking promising. But this isn't the worst fossil fuel disaster we've ever had. Here are 10 of the worst.

Disclaimer: It's almost impossible to quantify or define "worst" in this context. Number of lives lost? Amount of environmental damage? Sheer volume of oil spilled, or coal ignited? There's no way to be completely scientific about it. We attempted to compile the most horrifying, or objectively largest, disasters, and also to represent the different types of disasters that have befallen our fossil fuel industry. Feel free to chime in in comments with your own "favorite" disasters.

And two of the biggest disasters stem from Iraq's actions in the 1990 Gulf War — so they were intentional, but still qualify for a place on the list.

Largest Oil Spill Of All Time: Really, this list could be mostly oil spills. There have been so many. You only have to look at the Wikipedia page to see that enough oil has been splashed in the water to keep all our cars running for decades. The largest, in terms of volume of oil, was the Gulf War Oil Spill, in which Iraq opened the valves at its oil terminal and dumped oil into the Gulf, in an attempt to keep U.S. forces from landing. The resulting slick was 4,242 square miles, and five inches thick. It's between five and 27 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill. The largest accidental oil spill, in gallons, was Ixtoc I in Mexico, which dumped half a million tons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and polluted 162 miles of U.S. beaches. A rare sea turtle's natural habitat was flooded, and the endangered turtles had to be airlifted to safety. Honorable mention also has to go to the Atlantic Empress, a Greek oil tanker that managed to be involved in two separate massive oil spills....

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