Why scorn report about shrinking mess in the gulf?

Bob Tippee
Editor

The Apr. 20 blowout of the Macondo wildcat off Louisiana, with its 11 deaths and consequent oiling of the Gulf of Mexico, wasn’t bad enough to suit some people.

Federal agencies reported early in August that an impressive amount of the oil released into the gulf had dispersed or evaporated. Environmentalists and their friends in government deemed that news too good.

“Bull,” declared a blogger for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the energy and environment subcommittee of the House Commerce on Energy and Commerce, said the administration shouldn’t have released the report. According to the Politico web site, he complained it “basically sent the signal in regard to how much of the problem remains.”

Wasn’t that the point?

The report represented fate of the oil as shares of the 4.9 million bbl the government estimates to have been released. Its findings: direct recovery from the wellhead 17%, burned 5%, skimmed 3%, chemically dispersed 8%, naturally dispersed 16%, evaporated or dissolved 25%, and residual 26%.

Natural degradation continues for residual and dispersed oil.

Clearly, the spill isn’t the mess it was just a few weeks ago and was expected indefinitely to remain.

Oil has slimed shoreline—but not as much as was earlier feared. Little oil remains afloat. Scientific groups report “plumes” of oil below ocean surface, but concentrations are so low the oil can’t be seen.

Environmental damage has occurred, of course. There will be more. But maybe real damage won’t be as ugly as the initial mess. This is good news.

What the government report shows is that nature has strong mechanisms of adjustment. Other spills have demonstrated how well those mechanisms work.

There can be only one reason to scorn the report’s conclusions—that they drain extremist political agendas of the manufactured desperation on which they feed. 

For anyone with a heatlhy sense of hope toward the end of a long, tense summer, they offer a welcome reason to cheer.

(Online Aug. 20, 2010; author’s e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)

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