Oceans of Opportunity

BP GOM oil crisis | it ain’t over yet

'A New Life in the Sea' by Michael LombardiFunny, the Gulf oil crisis nearly slipped out of my mind with it not being front and center in the media since the well was capped in mid-July. I suppose this is a true testament to the power of the media, and likely part of some greater plan to make the entire situation evaporate in front of the American public’s eyes. We feed off of crises here in the US. The news is always bad, or full of gossip. I’m not sure why this is so, or when it was decided that this is how it would be, but it is. So, it’s not surprising that the nation’s worst environmental crisis in history is slowly fading away…someone doesn’t want us to run with it. Well, it ain’t over yet folks. Not even close…

Embedded amidst ‘breaking news’ stories about Lindsay Lohan’s rehab, grave robbers, and Susan Boyle performing for the Pope, is just a little bit of science that actually does have a considerable impact on our day to day lives, whether you live on the Gulf Coast or not. First, is the public review of a study published by Woods Hole, stating that massive oil plumes are lingering in deep water in the Gulf, and have not been dispersed or otherwise biodegraded. The discussion can be found here on CNN:

A second piece of information comes from Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division and the Energy Biosciences Institute, who examined a dispersed oil plume that was formed at a depth of between 3,600 and 4,000 feet and extended some 10 miles out from the wellhead. They offered the following:

“Our findings show that the influx of oil profoundly altered the microbial community by significantly stimulating deep-sea psychrophilic (cold-temperature) gamma-proteobacteria that are closely related to known petroleum-degrading microbes.”

In general public speak, this means that the deepwater plumes provided a food source for oil eating bateria, and so their activity is on the up and up. Yes, a good thing in terms of nature finding ways to eliminate the oil, but the longer term consequences of a massive deepwater ecological change are certainly not known.

Bottom line is…the problem may be somewhat out of site, but it shouldn’t be out of mind just yet. The complicating factor is still the complexity of surveying, testing, and actually doing anything constructive in over 3000 feet of water. And if there is one plume out there, I can guarantee it isn’t the only one. Surveying the deep water environment for these massive plumes is still like finding a neede in a haystack, and the trick is that the needle moves around.

My challenge to the media is this…let’s keep this issue front and center. It’s a lot more concerning than celebrity rehab, Tiger Woods’ divorce, or the latest iPad recall. Come on America…let’s get our priorities straight.
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