Who woulda thunk it?
Scientists have not only discovered a previously unknown oil gorging germ deep in the Gulf of Mexico, they now also think that microbial action in the water has been so effective that virtually all of the oil really is gone.
A top scientist studying the ability of bacteria to break down the oil plume in the Gulf of Mexico says that microbes have been so successful that the oil may be gone.
Terry Hazen, a microbial ecologist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who published a groundbreaking study of microbial activity Tuesday in the online research journal Science Express, has had a team of researchers out in the Gulf since May 25 collecting water samples. They noticed a dramatic drop-off in the amount of oil in the Gulf immediately after the well was idled July 15, and now they can't find any oil in the ocean.
"In the last three weeks we haven't been able to detect a deep plume anywhere," Hazen said. "We can't see it now. We can't see anything at the surface. We can't see anything in the deep subsurface either."
Hah. The Gulf of Mexico is a resilient, warm, germ-rich environment. For millions of years, oil has seeped from the bottom, giving rise to a large population of microbes that are floating appetites for oil. The little buggers probably rival the US in terms of crude oil consumption, and that was before the spill. As soon as the Macondo crude hit the water, the microbes went to work. But the real nut-grabber for the environmental wackos and conspiracy nutjobs has to be this:
That the oil-munching bacteria were able to consume tiny droplets of oil could validate the use of the Corexit chemical dispersant for helping to speed the biodegradation of the oil, Hazen said, although the long-term effects of Corexit on the ecosystem in the Gulf remains to be seen.
"It certainly looks like it may have had some positive effect by keeping that oil down there and allowing it to be biodegraded," Hazen said, adding that his team hasn't been able to find the presence of any Corexit, either, because it's water-soluble.
The long term effects of Corexit are on the order of the long term effects of your average bottle of generic dishwashing liquid. Hell, it’s probably even good for your skin. The stuff is also a miracle of modern chemical engineering. It breaks the oil into tiny droplets, then it dissolves in the water and goes away. Just like… Well, dishwashing liquid.
If they have any left, maybe they should host an eco-protest and when all the nutjobs show up, bathe them by hosing’em down with Corexit and cold Gulf water.
Gimme some feedback in the comments.