Crude oil is a naturally occurring substance. But deliberate or accidental spills on the sea can be very dramatic events, especially those associated with offshore oil and gas production.
Shooting flames, unsightly slicks, oiled birds, and gooey messes onshore are all highly photogenic. Also, most are within an easy commute for protesting environmentalists and the news media. To be sure, these events are harmful for those affected. However, worldwide offshore petroleum exploration and production only accounts for between 2–4 percent of the oil spilled into the sea each year. By comparison, human activity on land is around 11 percent, three times higher than the oil platforms. Considering that globally there are thousands of offshore platforms and tens of thousands of miles of seafloor pipelines, offshore petroleum production is remarkably clean—and getting cleaner each year.