The Beacon

Guest Post: Where Has All the Oil Gone?

Nancy Rome is a documentarian and writer based in Baltimore. She sent us this thoughtful guest post.

The question on everyone's mind right now and for the foreseeable future is: Where has the oil gone?

Much of the scientific community scoffs at the White House’s claim last week that 75% of the oil has been cleaned up, even going so far as to call the claim ludicrous, because tracking the spill is so difficult.

To say how much has really been cleaned up is nearly impossible, and oil continues to wash up "under" beaches and marshes on barrier islands and will continue to do so for some time.  

If we still do not know exactly how much oil actually gushed from the Deepwater Horizon, then how can we know the exact amount that has been cleaned up?

BP's extensive use of dispersants has inexorably complicated matters, because some scientists believe that they are as toxic as the crude oil itself. The dispersants have broken up the oil, allowing it into the subsurface. Clean-up is impossible when the oil becomes integrated into the water column, and the long-term effects could be dire.

Marine scientists still say they don't know the exact toxic content of the spill itself, or exactly how the chemicals will disperse in this environment. Admiral Thad Allen ignored the White House's order to stop using dispersants, so accounting for the amount used will be almost impossible to track.

On day 108 after the disaster, BP carried out its "static kill" - i.e. filling the well with mud and cement to halt the flow. Obvious questions remain about whether this will hold and if there will be other leaks.

And now that we know more about how the oil industry works, and have had a crash course in mineral management and regulation (and lack thereof), what will we do to ensure that this never happens again? 

You can help by signing Oceana’s petition to stop offshore drilling if you haven’t already, and stay tuned for more updates from our gulf expedition.

 


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