Disinformation of an oil spill

Unless you’re deaf and blind, you probably have been exposed to the terrible ecological disaster that took place, and is still taking place off the coast of Louisiana. If you don’t know, on April 20th, the offshore oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, suffered a catostraphic failure and exploded. The explosion killed 11 people, injured a dozen more and when the emergency blowout valve failed to seal off the wellhead, left hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil to begin flooding into the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, after several failed attempts to quell the oil leak as it spills and spreads across the Gulf of Mexico, we’re looking at an ecological disaster that could potentially dwarf the disaster that was the Exxon Valdez oil spill of the 90’s. Despite assurances by BP that any oil spill from this wellhead wouldn’t reach the shores before their cleanup would allow it, we now have oil and tar washing ashore in almost all of the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

Those are the facts. There is no arguing them. The economies of the effected areas are being ground to a halt, the rare and fragile wild life of the barrier islands and coastlines are in serious danger, and there’s no end in sight.

There’s a lot to debate on the issue, whether you’re for or against further off shore drilling, who should take what share of the blame etc. One thing that cannot be debated is that this is a terrible economical, ecological tragedy. However, there are some people who bathe so thoroughly in their ignorance and ineptitude that they will say things so stupid that it’s hard to believe. Unfortunately for people who like to champion reason and scientific thought, those persons happen to have a very large base of people listening to them.

Fortunately, I am not talking about the man from Colorado who wants everyone to pray away the oil, but I am talking about Rush Limbaugh and like minded mouthpieces saying very stupid things. Sarah Palin is still promoting offshore drilling while this debacle is still going on; Gene Taylor, House Representative from Mississippi compared the oil spill to spilled chocolate milk, says public is over-reacting; Conservative Bill Kristol’s reaction is to drill closer to the shoreline; These are all really stupid things to say in light of what is happening, but as always, Rush Limbaugh takes the cake.

Rush believes the oil spill was caused by “environmentalist wackos” to move forward their agenda as John Kerry and Joe Lieberman’s Climate and Energy bill fast approached, even though at the time, nobody had any idea what actually blew up the Deepwater Horizon. We now know that the redundancies put in place on the oil rig to stop such a blowout, failed, causing an explosion. This isn’t surprising at all as Rush will say anything so long as it backs his political beliefs. I’m sure he wasn’t happy to report such a catastrophic failure in something he promotes so heavily without taking a swing at the ‘regime’.

That’s stupid enough as it is, but it doesn’t end there. Rush is also spewing forth this dribble that, unfortunately, I’ve seen floating around in other places as well.

“The ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone and left out there,” Limbaugh said. “It’s natural. It’s as natural as the ocean water is.”

This is even stupider, but for some reason people latch on to it. I’m not sure why, but maybe because there is a parcel, the tiniest bit of truth to it. Otherwise it is a giant extrapolated argument from ignorance.

First off, oil is natural, it’s created via natural mechanisms over millions of years. We all learned that in grade school. What is also true is that the Gulf of Mexico has lots of oil leaked into it naturally every year, via oil seeps. Oil seeps occur where oil and other hydrocarbons have broke free though fissures in rock or have been released via natural methods of erosion. This happens above ground, it happens under the ocean, it is the biggest source of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

In fact, that article I just linked, this one, has been quoted around quite a bit in response to this oil spill and the repercussions it could have for the offshore drilling oil industry. So we will use that as our basis, as there is obviously some absence of reading comprehension regarding this article.

“Oil that finds its way to the surface from natural seeps gets broken down by bacteria and ends up as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. So knowing the amount of fossil fuel that turns to carbon dioxide naturally is important for understanding how much humans may be changing the climate by burning oil and gas.”

The punching of thousands of fists into the air can be heard upon reading this quote. However, let’s put that in perspective.

“On water, oil has this wonderful property of spreading out really thin,” said Mitchell. “A gallon of oil can spread over a square mile very quickly.” So what ends up on the surface is an incredibly thin slick, impossible to see with the human eye and harmless to marine animals.”

That, is not this.

The natural oil seeps which form natural oil slicks are so small that they are broken up and naturally dismantled without damaging the environment or our economies which depend on the health of the ocean. The natural oil seeps look nothing like the oil that is gushing from this blown out wellhead.

“To get an estimate of how much oil seeps into the Gulf each year, the researchers took into account the thickness of the oil-only a hundredth of a millimeter, the area of ocean surface covered by slicks, and how long the oil remains on the surface before it’s consumed by bacteria or churned up by waves.”

One hundredth of a millimeter thick, we’re looking at parts of the spill being several millimeters thick by BP’s estimation, and CENTIMETERS thick by independent analysis. That is 100 times larger (at the most conservative estimates) than the oil seeps taken into account in the calculations made by that article. Now let’s consider than the entirety of the Gulf of Mexico is over 600,000 square miles and that the oil slick is at the very least 2,500 square miles, and that in the space of an entire year, “twice the Exxon Valdez” worth of oil seeps into the Gulf. The current estimates of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico from this ONE site, are predicting that it will put more oil into the Gulf than one Exxon Valdez at least. Half of the entire natural seep every year in one small spot of the Gulf of Mexico. That’s like saying that your house can withstand some strong winds every now and then, so lets put it in front of a tornado.

Nature is the biggest polluter of the Gulf of Mexico, but nature has evolved to combat it’s own pollution. It’s not prepared to take an added 10-12 million gallons of oil.

So what we’re looking at is a concentrated oil slick in a small area that happens to be moving onshore in areas where it will devastate the economies and wildlife those regions depend on. The outrage is not exclusive to environmentally conscious people, the livelihood of millions of people are at stake who depend on the environment.To not act in cleaning it up would not only be irresponsible, it would be downright stupid, and it’s stupid and irresponsible to seed those ideas in the heads of those who do not want look for the information or who cannot find it themselves.


About this entry