Good news, bad news in the Gulf of Mexico

As the oh-so-clever headline suggests, we got good news and we got bad news.

Bad news first: 4.9 million barrels of crude oil have spewed upward into the Gulf of Mexico, far more than the government’s worst-case scenario, according to scientists who are expected to know these things.

Saith the Washington Post: “BP’s Macondo well spewed 62,000 barrels of oil a day initially, and as the reservoir gradually depleted itself, the flow eased to 53,000 barrels a day until the well was finally capped and sealed on July 15, according to scientists in the Flow Rate Technical Group, supervised by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Energy.”

So it was even bigger than (almost) anyone imagined.

But there is some good news amid all the gloom and doom.

CNN reports that studies by the EPA and others found that the “dispersants” used to break down the crude present no more threat to the environment in the Gulf than the oil itself presents. There was lots of hand-wringing in the early days of the crisis when environmental types worried that the dispersant cure might be worse than the oil-spill affliction.

Federal guvmint types now say that’s not the case, and that the dispersants are having the desired effect of keeping the oil from fouling the beaches and inlets and marshes as badly as they might have, and that the naturally occurring microbes in the Gulf are gobbling up the crude oil and breaking it down to harmless water and hydrogen dioxide. Imagine, a critter than eats oil faster than a Hummer.

But wait, does this mean a new influx of greenhouse  gases? The horror!

OK, given the choice of noxious poison that sticks to everything and a few extra degrees of warmth melting polar ice caps, I’ll take the diminishing ice cubes.

Meanwhile, BP’s plans to execute the “static kill” to permanently plug the well is being delayed a bit.

The capacity of nature to absorb all manner of abuse and somehow survive continues to amaze me. The long-term effects, of course, remain to be seen. But for some, the apocalyptic scenario envisioned may not materialize.

If that turns out to be the case, it can’t be too long before we again start hearing chants of “Drill, baby, drill!”


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