Illustration by Brian Stauffer THIS PAST SPRING, coastlines around the globe took on the feel of an enemy invasion as hundreds of massive oil tankers overwhelmed seaports from South Africa to Singapore. Locals and industry analysts alike used the word armada —typically applied to fleets of warships—to describe scenes such as when a group of tankers left Saudi Arabia en masse and another descended on China. One distressed news article proclaimed that a “floating hoard” of oil sat in tankers anchored across the North Sea, “everywhere from the UK to France and the Netherlands.” In April, the US Coast Guard shared an alarming video that showed dozens of tankers spread out for miles along California’s coast. On May 12, Greenpeace activists sailed into San Francisco Bay to issue a challenge to the public. In front of the giant Amazon Falcon oil tanker—which had been docked in the bay for weeks, loaded up with Chevron oil—they unfurled a banner reading, “Oil Is Over! The Future Is Up to You.” The oil industry has turned the oceans into aquatic parking lots—floating storage facilities holding, at their highest levels in early May, some 390 million barrels of crude oil and refined products […]

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