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BP Spill: Still Hyping After All These Years

All these years? Poetic license. It’s been two years since the disastrous explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Eleven rig workers were killed in a valiant but failed attempt to control BP’s Macondo well located 50 miles off the mouth of the Mississippi River in Gulf waters 5,000 feet deep. The ensuing blowout seemed to last an eternity. The finger pointing and legal action continues unabated.

Two Years Later, the Effects Surface

BARATARIA BAY — Open sores. Parasitic infections. Chewed-up-looking fins. Gashes. Mysterious black streaks. Two years after the drilling-rig explosion that touched off the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, scientists are beginning to suspect that fish in the Gulf of Mexico are suffering the effects of the petroleum.

But the article goes on to say…

The evidence is nowhere near conclusive. …

And the damage may extend well beyond fish. …

Reports of strange things with fish began emerging when fishermen returned to the Gulf weeks after BP’s gushing oil well was capped during the summer of 2010. …

There’s no saying for sure what’s causing the diseases in what is still a relatively small percentage of the fish. …

Still, it’s clear to fishermen and researchers alike that something’s amiss.

You’d think that with the scale of this calamity and the amount of money that’s gone into ferreting out the damage, that the damage would be fairly obvious and the science would be quite, {ahem}, settled.

One researcher in the article has this to say:

“There is lots of circumstantial evidence that something is still awry,” said Christopher D’Elia, dean of Louisiana State University’s School of the Coast and Environment. “On the whole, it is not as much environmental damage as originally projected. [Told ya so. - Ed.] Doesn’t mean there is none.”

True, that. Doesn’t mean there is none. But environmentalists and fishermen have a vested interest in hyping the damage, and those are the only opinions the press cares to report.

Lest we forget, oil is part of the natural environment. Organisms have natural ways of dealing with it. Out of thousands of fish and shellfish tested for contamination, not a single tainted sample has been found. The article tells of fish found with traces of naphthalene in their bile — but you don’t eat bile.

The Gulf’s seafood remains fresh and delicious as it ever was.

Journalists, who are not schooled in the Second Law of Thermodynamics, always expect “the gooey stuff” to “lurk in the briny deep” until someday it exacts its revenge upon the defilers of Mother Gaia. Nice story, but the real world doesn’t work like that. This stuff is part of the natural environment. It will degrade and dissipate, and to a large extent it already has.

The oil and gas industry can and does make mistakes, but they learn from them. We need to have a rational debate over whether the benefits of offshore mineral development justify the environmental risks. I vote yes.

Cross-posted at stevemaley.com.


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