US Says Only 1/4 of Spilled Oil Left in the Gulf


Photo via CSMonitor

The AP is reporting that out of the roughly 200 million gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico throughout the course of the BP disaster, only 53.5 million gallons remain, according to federal scientists. The rest has either been collected, burned, dispersed by Corexit, or has naturally deteriorated, they say. While this can be viewed (with caution) as good news, there are troubling elements of the report as well. 53 million gallons of oil, which still 4 times the size of the Exxon Valdez, is obviously an improvement over what was anticipated. But it seems to me that the reports aren't delving into some of the more troubling aspects of how that oil disappeared so fast. For instance, the AP story does note that "one-sixth [of the oil] was burned, skimmed or dispersed using controversial chemicals." But it leaves it at that.

And The New York Times once again deploys a tone that seems to downplay scope of the disaster. Here are the first two paragraphs from its front page story:

The government is expected to announce on Wednesday that three-quarters of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak has already evaporated, dispersed, been captured or otherwise eliminated -- and that much of the rest is so diluted that it does not seem to pose much additional risk of harm.

A government report finds that about 26 percent of the oil released from BP's runaway well is still in the water or onshore in a form that could, in principle, cause new problems. But most is light sheen at the ocean surface or in a dispersed form below the surface, and federal scientists believe that it is breaking down rapidly in both places.

The Times' report is pretty thorough, and it raises some concerns of persisting problems in the ecosystems, but in many ways, it's surprisingly non-critical. It cites the "aggressive" response of the US gov and BP, but doesn't mention the long term impacts of those dispersants, or delve into how those 53 million gallons of remaining oil may impact ecosystems.

The bottom line is, we're not out of the woods yet -- as much as we'd all like for this thing to be over, there plenty of worrisome factors left to be investigated and mitigated.

More on the BP Gulf Spill
The BP Gulf Oil Spill By the Numbers
Looking for Gulf Oil Spill News? Be Careful What You Google

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