Mighty oil-eating microbes help clean up the Gulf
Wed Jul 28, 4:41 pm ET
By JOHN CAREY, environmental writer
Where is all the oil? Nearly two weeks after BP finally capped the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, the oil slicks that once spread across thousands of miles of the Gulf of Mexico have largely disappeared. Nor has much oil washed up on the sandy beaches and marshes along the Louisiana coast. And the small cleanup army in the Gulf has only managed to skim up a tiny fraction of the millions of gallons of oil spilled in the 100 days since the Deepwater Horizon rig went up in flames.
So where did the oil go?
I thought we were all going to die, and very soon, as a result of the oil spill. The talking heads have been screaming about for the last 100 days. But we are not dead, and the oil is disappearing. What gives?
The article goes on to explain some things that seem (cough, cough) never to have been mentioned in all the hubbub about this event.
1. “as much as 40 percent of the oil might have evaporated when it reached the surface. High winds from two recent storms may have speeded the evaporation process.”
The talking heads warned us of the great danger of storms in regard to the oil spill. Who would have thought that the storms would help remove some of the spilled oil, and that the talking heads are idiots?
2. “The lesson from past spills is that the lion’s share of the cleanup work is done by nature in the form of oil-eating bacteria and fungi. The microbes break down the hydrocarbons in oil to use as fuel to grow and reproduce. A bit of oil in the water is like a feeding frenzy, causing microbial populations to grow exponentially. Typically, there are enough microbes in the ocean to consume half of any oil spilled in a month or two . . Such microbes have been found in every ocean of the world sampled, from the Arctic to Antarctica.”
Interesting, is it not, that the talking heads have had a hundred days to at least mention this, and have not done so. Perhaps I was a bit harsh in calling them idiots. Perhaps they are very clever in not doing so. They didn’t want to spoil a perfectly good disaster about which they could talk. They are, after all, talking heads.
But, of course, this interpretation makes the talking heads sinister. Sinister heads, or idiot heads – I wonder which. You ponder that one.
3. “The controversial dispersant used to break up the oil as it gushed from the deep-sea well may have helped the microbes do their work. Microbes can more easily consume small drops of oil than big ones. And there is evidence the microbes like to munch on the dispersant as well.”
With whom, exactly, was this dispersant “controversial”? The answer: the EPA. Remember the EPA – they are from the government, and they are here to help you. They want to make sure you can’t afford to drive your car, heat your home, or perhaps even breath too much. Don’t be surprised if the EPA now tries to limit how many of these oil-eating bacteria can be in the ocean. Some of them might die and decay, yielding the dreaded poisonous gas carbon dioxide!
Who would ever have thought that there are little critters in the ocean that eat oil? Apparently, it was no secret. But the talking heads just didn’t bother to tell us. Again, why spoil a perfectly good disaster?
Now if only we can find a microbe that eats talking heads and agents of the EPA.