Gulf Oil Spill Follow-Up

Some of you might recall that a few months ago I posted about the Deep Horizon Gulf of Mexico Oil spill and the gonzo idea to use a seafloor nuclear detonation to plug the leak.

So why the follow-up? Why, because of reader demand, of course! Specifically, one reader: the poster known only as Anonymous.

Ah, yes, my friend Anonymous. Or should I say Dr. Harbique LaCourt. At least that’s the name he gave himself in one of his responses, though I can find no mention of such a person online anywhere and he’s gone back to Anonymous in subsequent posts. He also didn’t mention what he’s a doctor of. But hey, let’s give him benefit of the doubt.

As you’ll see from the comments he’s left on the original post, I’ve clearly hit a nerve. He pops up every few weeks to scold me and demand that I post something more about the oil spill. After all, as he writes: “Several months after the breach, they can’t find any more oil and the leak is plugged. For this, you were advocating that God (or someone of equal authority) close down the entire BP enterprise.”

Hmm…I don’t recall bringing God into this at all. I’m pretty sure the only invisible hand that I discussed bringing about the end of BP was that of the free market (and perhaps the US legal system, should BP be sued into oblivion).

So, setting aside the Deity for a moment, let’s consider the poster’s claim that they can’t find any more oil and the leak is plugged.

I will grant the second part of that: they have indeed plugged the leak and no one could be happier than I about it. However, it’s the first part of that (over)statement that we need to consider.

Is the oil really all gone?

I have to answer a resounding ‘NO’ to such a claim.

You needn’t look far for the evidence (ah, there’s that tricky thing again, doctor–evidence).

I encourage everyone to read the wonderful and lengthy article on the Gulf Oil Spill and its potential long-term consequences on the National Geographic website. This article appeared in a recent special issue which I was able to read, and it sheds a lot of light on the spill, the hubris and lax regulation that spawned it, and the current and potential future environmental impacts of the spill .

If you want to know more you can also look here, here, here, here and here. Like I said, the evidence isn’t hard to come by.

The good news is that the worst possible outcome–millions of gallons of oil washing up on sensitive coasts and wetlands–doesn’t look like it will come to pass. The naturally occuring oil-eating bacteria that live in the Gulf have kicked into overdrive to eat the oil, but that too poses hazards should the ballooning bacteria population lead to vast swathes of low-oxygen water. Such zones would be deadly to fish and the smaller parts of the ecosystem.

We should also be concerned about the amount of chemical dispersant sprayed in the Gulf during the spill. The dispersants are meant to prevent huge slicks from coating beaches, and they do just what they’re supposed to: disperse, not destroy, not clean up or remove. The chemical dispersant itself is largely untested for environmental impact, especially at the kinds of volume that were being dumped into the Gulf for several months. So no easy answers.

And as this article points out, there’s evidence to suggest that the dispersant simply forced huge quantities of the oil downward, into the middle of water column, where huge slicks remain trapped, while others settle on the seafloor as giant mats of oil, inches thick, that kill all life as they block off and starve the seafloor and its countless biological components from precious food and oxygen.

The National Geographic article does a good job of pointing out just how superficial the recovery of some reefs and wetlands has been from oil spills (in that the oil is a couple of inches below the sand, as fresh and sticky and poisonous as the day it washed up from the well…)

So why go to all this trouble to refute the claims of a blog troll? Well, I’m curious about just why this fellow is so pissed off by my little blog post about environmental disaster. I mean, this is Blogowych, not BoingBoing. And once he found the post, if he felt I was just some hippie wingnut, why all the venom? I suppose some people, when angry, are just the kind who need to vent. But hanging on to the rage this long and making periodic return visits to post comments on a post that didn’t get many views and which doesn’t even appear on the main page anywhere?

The reason I asked about his real identity (a request he seemed perplexed and infuriated by) was because I’d like to know what his biases and credentials are. Is he simply a concerned citizen, like I am? Is he an engineer in the field of petrochemicals? Is he in the employ of a petrochemical company? Has he been hired by BP or some lobby group as a paid apologist, or to slag every post he can find that speaks ill of the spill and the corporate response? (If I were BP, I’d sure as hell hire somebody to flame away on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

Doubtless, I’m letting my imagination and paranoia get the better of me but you see where I’m going with this. Biases matter, and I feel they should be declared if we’re going to have a frank, honest debate. I was happy enough to list my credentials, education, etc. when asked.

However, I clearly expected too much of this poster. While I wanted to engage with the issues and marshal evidence to support and refute, Anonymous seemed intent simply on name calling. He’s accused me of ad hominem attacks, as well as being a “fascist idiot”. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know what either an ad hominem attack or a fascist is.

He has also called me a “mule-riding, petrophobic, Earth-worshipping Druid with an 7th-grade education” (direct quote).

Oh–I take it back. Clearly he does understand what an ad hominem attack is.

Well, I’ll spend no more time trying to reason with the unreasonable. This mule-riding, petrophobic, Earth-worshipping Druid with an 7th-grade education will simply take solace in knowing that he’s in the right.

– S.

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