How Bad Is the Oil Spill?

July 30th, 2010

By Tom Carter

There have been a number of press reports in the last week or so hinting that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may not be as bad as initially thought.  The first reports from puzzled experts and confused journalists focused on the difficulty that clean-up crews have had finding oil to clean up.  Then they began discussing the unexpected rate at which bacteria are consuming and breaking up the oil in the water.

There’s an excellent article at, The BP Spill: Has the Damage Been Exaggerated? It explains what experts believe is happening to the oil in the Gulf and why, and it compares this disaster with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.  According to what they’re seeing now, the Exxon Valdez was a far worse incident with longer lasting effects.  The article does a good job of explaining why that’s true.

A lot of these conclusions are somewhat tentative, of course.  These are still early days.  One thing is sure, though — they’re having trouble finding oil to clean up.  For the rest of the discussion, read the article.

Those with political agendas will try to twist these new facts and tentative conclusions to their own benefit, of course.  Environmental activists — the folks whose existence is funded by these events — will cry conspiracy and accuse everyone who disagrees with them of having been bought by BP.  Conservatives who have gleefully called this “Obama’s Katrina” aren’t going to give up easily — their goal is to discredit the President however they can.  Gulf Coast residents who’ve lost jobs and income as a result of the oil spill will resist lowered estimates of the severity of the incident out of fear that they won’t be compensated.  And politicians of all sorts who’ve tethered their wagons to the catastrophe will try to twist facts, as they always do.

Rush Limbaugh is a good example of an opportunistic partisan whose response was tailored to his biases.  He’s downplayed the spill all along, as he can be expected to do any time “environmental wackos” are involved in something.  His knee jerks, his neck reddens, and he skewers them.  At the same time, he’s gone after the President along the lines of “Obama’s Katrina.”  Apparently, neither he nor his fans see the contradiction.  But this time, at least on the environment issue, Limbaugh may actually be right, proving again that even a stopped clock has to be right a couple of times a day.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the partisan politicians, hacks and wackos of various stripes, and just common folks would take the facts for what they are and listen to the real experts?  Yeah, and pigs will fly past my window, too.

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4 Responses to “How Bad Is the Oil Spill?”

  1. BK Lim |

    To separate the myths from the facts under the heavy clouds of deception (obviously to cover their responsibilities) you need to understand the hazards of drilling into a discernible seabed feature like an escarpment. If you want to read more, my article is

  2. Tom Carter |

    Interesting article on the same subject at PJM: “The Crisis that Wasn’t: Where’s All the Oil?

  3. Tom Carter |

    Here’s a discussion at Politico’s Arena on the severity of the oil spill. The governor of Mississippi, for one, thinks the media has over-hyped the problem.

  4. Tom Carter |

    Excellent article in the UK press on the oil spill, the politics and hype associated with it, and new indications that the magnitude of the diaster was over-stated. Time will tell, of course, but the evidence keeps mounting.

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