Random thoughts on a variety of subjects
By Sam Redman
People wonder… where did all the oil go? Their point of reference is usually the Valdez spill, because we know that oil mostly ended up on the shores and then stayed around for many years. But, the situation in the gulf is quite different.
The oil from the gulf is not the same as what was experienced in the Exxon Valdez spill. This oil is a very light, very degradable oil while the Valdez oil was a heavy thick crude, prone to very slow degradation. Forty percent of this kind of oil simply evaporates. Perhaps twenty percent was able to be collected or burned and the remaining forty percent is being rapidly consumed and digested by naturally occurring bacteria, which already inhabit the gulf waters, doing that very same specific task, eliminating naturally occurring oil seepage every day (long before this spill ever occurred). That is a fact which many may not have known or have overlooked; there are thousands (yes thousands) of oil seeps on the gulf ocean floor which occur naturally and that oil is consumed by resident, specifically evolved, bacteria which are conveniently now readily available to dispose of the oil from this spill.
And there are the simple realities of the tropical conditions of warm air and warm water which combine to create a perfect situation to cause this kind of light oil to evaporate and it provides the ideal incubator conditions for the bacteriological consumption of the oil. Louisiana’s coastal marshes are totally different from the frigid waters of southern Alaska, although both are teeming with birds and fish. Cold, icy water slows decomposition. The warmer water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico is ideal for decomposing either spilled or naturally seeping oil.
The churning waters of the gulf this time of year from the tropical storms, plus the strong outflow at the Mississippi River Delta(the largest river in the country) contribute to the oil being dispersed into tiny droplets, making both evaporation and bacteriological consumption occur more easily.
The truth (if anyone really wants the truth) is that it is extremely likely that the facts will bear out Tony Hayward’s shouted down prediction that “the overall environmental impact will be very, very modest.”