BBC News - US considers setting fire to Gulf of Mexico oil leak (external - login to view)
Officials are considering setting fire to an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as efforts to stem a leak from a rig that exploded and sank are failing.
The coast guard is concerned that, unless controlled, the leak could cause one of the worst spills in US history.
The "controlled burn" could start later far from shore, said Coast Guard Rear Adm Mary Landry, who is in charge of the US clean-up effort.
She said work on sealing leaks using robotic submersibles could take months.
About 1,000 barrels (42,000 US gallons; 35,000 imperial gallons) of oil a day have been gushing into the sea since an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon platform last week caused the rig to sink.
Eleven of the rig's workers are still missing and presumed dead in the disaster off the Louisiana coast.
Adm Landry warned that if the well was not secured soon, "this could be one of the most significant oil spills in US history".
A "controlled burn" would involve setting fire to an area of petroleum trapped by special containment booms on the water's surface. Environmental experts say birds and animals are more likely to escape a burning patch of water than an oil slick, although toxic fumes could endanger wildlife.
"We fully understand there are benefits and tradeoffs," said Adm Landry.
But she noted that with the spill moving toward land, the impact on Louisiana's coastline, which contains some 40% of the nation's wetlands and spawning grounds for countless fish and birds, had to be considered.
Controlled burns had been tried and tested before, and had been shown to be "effective in burning 50 to 95% of oil collected in a fire boom", she said......
Good idea to burn or do you know of a better idea?