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Giant Plumes of Oil Forming Below the Gulf's Surface

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the we-are-bad-at-this dept.

Earth 483

An anonymous reader sends in a NY Times article about the spread of oil from the BP gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. Quoting: "Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide, and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given. ... The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes. Dr. Joye said the oxygen had already dropped 30 percent near some of the plumes in the month that the broken oil well had been flowing. ... [Scientists on the Pelican mission] suspect the heavy use of chemical dispersants, which BP has injected into the stream of oil emerging from the well, may have broken the oil up into droplets too small to rise rapidly. ... Dr. Joye said the findings about declining oxygen levels were especially worrisome, since oxygen is so slow to move from the surface of the ocean to the bottom. She suspects that oil-eating bacteria are consuming the oxygen at a feverish clip as they work to break down the plumes."

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i LOL (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228490)

you americans are fucked, hahah. thats what you get with your evil oil companies.

Re:i LOL (4, Informative)

beerbear (1289124) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228592)

BP. British Petroleum.

Re:i LOL (4, Insightful)

clarkcox3 (194009) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228692)

Yes, that evil, American oil company: British Petroleum.

Re:i LOL (4, Insightful)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228826)

Previously known as Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which is a bit less catchy these days.

Actually BP no longer stands for British Petroleum officially, but meh.. No large company is anchored too heavily to its country of origin.

Re:i LOL (1)

Eggbloke (1698408) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228878)

Ironically their tag line is "Beyond Petroleum".

Re:i LOL (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228942)

That's right, Beyond Petroleum - Killing the Living and the Harvesting the Dying before they even become oil! Ingenious!

Re:i LOL (5, Informative)

Trip Ericson (864747) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228988)

Bear in mind that several years ago, BP merged with another company and kept the BP name. That company? Amoco. AMerican Oil COmpany.

Re:i LOL (5, Informative)

yyxx (1812612) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229124)

you americans are fucked, hahah. thats what you get with your evil oil companies.

Actually, it's what Americans get when they let a British oil company deploy a Swiss drilling platform with German companies responsible for safety. Massive US lobbying efforts by BP also contributed to the lack of regulation, all in the name of international fairness and free trade.

And historically, Europe's record on oil spills is far worse than that of the US [wikipedia.org] . Of course, being obedient little nationalists, Europeans love to find fault with the US while their own governments are screwing them.

Hopefully, as a result of this disaster, the US will severely limit the ability of foreign companies to lobby in the US, and hopefully it will kick out European oil companies with their poor safety records once and for all.

We should call BP big polluter now! (5, Funny)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228504)

We should call BP big polluter now!

Re:We should call BP big polluter now! (5, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228868)

In other news, the chairman of Goldman Sachs sent the chairman of BP a nice thank-you-note.

Re:We should call BP big polluter now! (0, Offtopic)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229054)

Obama is the politician who has received the highest amount of contributions from Goldman Sachs.

Now, I am sure there is an explanation for this, which will be forthcoming.

Man! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32229006)

I find curious how apathetic people are these days.

It's like a toon character:

  "Hey! Look! The Earth is being destroyed!"
"Yo, man! That sucks!"

Earth may be doomed, but is there hope for us?

Worst Catastrophe In History (2, Informative)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228520)

New York Times: "Scientists Find Giant Plumes of Oil Forming Under the Gulf" [nytimes.com] * gushing 80,000 barrels a day * The well is 5,000-feet down. * The shallowest oil plume is 2,300 feet down. * The deepest bubble of oil is 4,200 feet down. * Will bubble up for decades. * At most 5% of the spilled oil will ever be recovered. "one big oil bubble is 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick."

Re:Worst Catastrophe In History (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228586)

has slashdot really sunk so low that halfassedly regurgitating a handful of quotes from the article with zero insight or original text of any kind gets you a +3 informative?

Re:Worst Catastrophe In History (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228622)

Apparently, yes. Now at +4 Informative

Re:Worst Catastrophe In History (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228710)

He has taken the article and twitarded the important portions, a very useful service for slashdot. Even the laziest and stupidest amongst the denizens of slashdot cannot claim TL;DR now for it is in little bite size chunks to suit their attention spans and intellect.

Re:Worst Catastrophe In History (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228776)

I'm pretty sure his comment was more than 140 characters, though.

Re:Worst Catastrophe In History (2, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228796)

Hell, it's slashdot, if he READ the article that should give him an automatic +5.

Re:Worst Catastrophe In History (4, Funny)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228610)

Great. So the oil is nicely contained in dense plumes. BP just needs to stick a giant straw into the plumes and suck that stuff right up :-)

Re:Worst Catastrophe In History (2, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228712)

There is a possibility, but the current oil collecting ships like this one from the German Navy [wikipedia.org] collect water by opening a wide 'mouth' on the ship from the top of the water, I wonder if they could install a pump and a long hose to do what you are proposing.

Think of it like a milkshake. (2, Insightful)

taxman_10m (41083) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228778)

All we need to do is drink the milkshake.

Re:Worst Catastrophe In History (2, Interesting)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228864)

That would work! They just need to repurpose something--say the Top Hat--into a "plume" of oil and drink it all up into a ship. Remember, doing a "Junk shot" is still considered a serious solution to this spill...

Re:Worst Catastrophe In History (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228620)

As an immigrant from a 3rd world, and after watching American and British and lately chinese interests eat away resources such as forests and minerals, and watching western oil companies pollute and then using economic blackmail to suppress voices, I personally feel this is a positive thing.

Crap close to home seems to be the only way Americans learn - so some pollution close by is always good.

Re:Worst Catastrophe In History (0, Offtopic)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229010)

I've been thinking the same thing, this just might be the catalyst to get us the battery technology to effectively use todays renewables.

Re:Worst Catastrophe In History (2, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228828)

Only because history has been relatively boring.

The human impact of the 1918 flu will almost certainly be much larger than the human impact of this thing.

That's a big problem (0, Troll)

Kohath (38547) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228528)

That's going to be a big problem for all those people who live below the surface of the water in the Gulf of Mexico. Also for the people who live in boats floating over 5000 feet of water. What are all those people going to do?

Re:That's a big problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228572)

They're going to starve because there is no fish to eat.

And then they are going to be poisoned by exotic, toxin producing life that will take hold in the 'dead-zones' resulting from the oxygen depletion and eco-system wiping.

Where's Sarah Palin (1, Troll)

PedoPope (1806810) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228530)

Haven't heard her say "Drill Baby Drill" in weeks. C'mon teabaggers - I can't hear you!

Re:Where's Sarah Palin (3, Funny)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228560)

Sarah Palin...
is out parasailin'.

She's in Arizona (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228580)

telling all of us how much we should appreciate our fine new immigration law.

Re:She's in Arizona (2, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228764)

Well, in all fairness, I'm sure that rig was manned by illegal immigrants, rather than properly trained Americans(TM). She's working the root of the problem.

Re:Where's Sarah Palin (3, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228590)

The insistence of the political mainstream to stick to slogans is so backwards... This includes both the conservatives and liberals.

Re:Where's Sarah Palin (0, Flamebait)

Seraphim_72 (622457) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229128)

No. You don't get to get away with this one. The left may spew slogans, but the right produces mantras. Mantras that are to be chanted until they become truth. This was one of them. They need to eat every one of those words.

Re:Where's Sarah Palin (1)

burni2 (1643061) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228600)

At the moment of now she's 5000 ft underwater at the center of the well, she will be used as the nuclear option.

Re:Where's Sarah Palin (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228762)

Blow baby, blow?

Re:Where's Sarah Palin (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228706)

I'm in FL, and I can assure you the teabags are still saying it here. I guess Faux news isn't covering it or hasn't told them what to say.

Re:Where's Sarah Palin (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228824)

So, you're saying that because a company got greedy, wasn't regulated well enough, and fucked something up, that means we should stop doing it? Wow, that's rational. So I guess if I fall down the stairs today everyone should stop using stairs? Yeah, we as a society should be hellbent on renewable energy and kicking the oil addiction, but in the meantime, I'd prefer to drill locally instead of bleeding out money in the form of foreign oil imports. Really, are you making the argument that because things can go wrong they shouldn't be done under proper regulation, or are you being irrational to accuse Palin of being stupid? So yeah, I'll say it: drill baby drill...along with the less popular 'regulate baby regulate' and 'research baby research'.

Re:Where's Sarah Palin (2, Insightful)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228950)

If you can't handle the leak, you shouldn't be drilling that deep underwater. Period.

The truth hurts the teabaggers (2, Interesting)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228938)

These idiots used DRILL BABY DRILL as a campaign slogan. Now they want to forget that ever happened.

Help me understand oil dispersants (4, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228550)

I've been reading a little about oil dispersants. I understand that basically they help to break down oil so that microorganisms can do their thing and use the oil as food. Maybe an oversimplification, but that is what I got out of it.

So now if you use oil dispersants, do you end up exacerbating the oxygen problem? If the microorganisms go nuts on the food supply, does this kill off even more of the ecosystem?

Re:Help me understand oil dispersants (4, Interesting)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228640)

I don't know the exact composition of the dispersants. But in all likelihood, they are just tensids - they do not "break down" the oil, they just help with forming an emulsion of tiny droplets rather than an oil slick on the surface. Out of sight, out of mind...

If that is indeed the main mechanism, I fail to see how they would help with bacterial breakdown of the oil. Sure, the emulsion presents a larger surface, but that surface is not actually oil, but a monolayer of the dispersant molecules encapsulating the oil droplets. If the bacterial breakdown still works, the consequences depend on the nature of the bacteria at question. If they are aerobic, i.e. oxygen breathing, your scenario might actually be a problem - eutrophy, oxygen depletion, formation of death zones. The gulf has enough of those already anyway fed by the runoff of the Mississippi.

Re:Help me understand oil dispersants (3, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228902)

What you are saying is correct, it is truly an 'out of sight out of mind' situation with dispersant solution being used at that depth and at that volume of flow, the BP should NOT have used it but let the oil come up instead where it could have been collected easier (there are machines that can collect it, like this one [wikipedia.org] , but for BP at least it is all about making it look better, well, less worse than it really is.

If people are mad right now, thinking it is 5000 barrels a day, wait until the truth actually comes out. That's why BP was spewing pure nonsense that it is not important to know the actual volume of the flow and did not allow the scientists with measuring equipment to approach the area.

Re:Help me understand oil dispersants (5, Interesting)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229032)

The guys over at The Oil Drum forums have done some back-of-the-envelope calculations based on a frame-by-frame analysis of the videos that have been released, basically trying to judge the outflow velocity of the oil from the leak. Most of them end up in the 20k-30k barrel per day range. For some reason, I trust them more than the official figures. Most of the more vocal posters there are petro engineers themselves and know what they are talking about.

On a related note, why exactly does BP have a say in who gets to do what at the spill site? Why do we let them control this?

Re:Help me understand oil dispersants (1)

rrossman2 (844318) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228656)

Dawn?

Re:Help me understand oil dispersants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228660)

Assuming that the biological dispersants respire I would assume that the surrounding environment would recover easier polluted by an overabundance of CO2 (recovering through photosynthesis) than an overabundance of unrefined oil blocking sunlight.

Re:Help me understand oil dispersants (2, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228686)

So now if you use oil dispersants, do you end up exacerbating the oxygen problem? If the microorganisms go nuts on the food supply, does this kill off even more of the ecosystem?

It's like an algae bloom, but with oil-eating bacteria.
Might as well nuke the gulf, because a mid-ocean bloom is the organic equivalent.

I think the problem is not so much that they used oil dispersants, but that they'd never really injected it 5,000 feet down and consequently didn't know what the oil would do.
In any future deepwater disaster, I imagine they won't be injected oil dispersants right next to the well head.

Re:Help me understand oil dispersants (3, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228736)

The wee beasties consume oxygen while metabolizing the oil. It's called respiration.

These "giant plumes" are total hyperbole. A few miles is NOTHING in the context of a body of water the size of the Gulf of Mexico.

Of course the press doesn't sell advertising by putting things into perspective, so we see this sort of nonsense. Which would you rather have? Biodegradation of the oil, or the oil lying around as a permanently available toxin?

   

Re:Help me understand oil dispersants (3, Interesting)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229102)

Millions of gallons of oil leach into the Gulf every year through natural processes. There is a whole ecology of critters and flora down there that thrive on a certain amount of oil, which is a natural part of the ecosystem. This doesn't absolve BP at all for the huge volume of the leak they have created, but it also seldom gets mentioned by the 'any amount of oil is bad bad bad' crowd who seek to capitalize on the crisis. 'Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste' [youtube.com] after all.

Re:Help me understand oil dispersants (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229122)


These "giant plumes" are total hyperbole. A few miles is NOTHING in the context of a body of water the size of the Gulf of Mexico.

That's assuming all parts of the Gulf are equal. Are you sure they are? Might it just be possible that some parts of the Ocean are more important to us than others?

Re:Help me understand oil dispersants (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228874)

That's actually the rationale. The truth is it's mostly to mask the oil by breaking it up into smaller particles so they are less easy to see. They don't magically make the oil go away or break it down into component parts like carbon. As far as the microorganisms they consume very little of the oil and the dispersants have little to do with that process. The excuse is it gives them more surface area to attack but it also uses toxic chemicals that kill the same microorganisms. The most effective way to promote the little oil eaters is to add a few nutrients the oil is lacking like phosphorus. It's actually one way to look for oil is to look for areas that are poor in certain nutrients. It's why some oil isn't eaten in the ground and some is eaten. Inspite of how serious it is notice BP's priorities. First find a way to get the oil into a tanker, translated how do we still make money off the oil rather than wasting it as it escapes. Second use dispersants to hide the scope of the problem by keeping it from making it to the surface and spreading it over a wider area. The problem with spreading it out is it just spreads out the problem it doesn't make it go away. Anyone remember the old method of getting rid of nuclear waste? They'd dump it into the ocean because they found the radiation levels were still low. That was until plankton ate it then fish ate the plankton then bigger fish ate the smaller fish. They found the radiation was low in plankton but very high in the fish we'd tend to eat. A similar process happens with mercury. It's why certain fish have very high levels, they are at the top of the food chain. Expect lots of toxic chemicals in the fish from the Gulf for many years to come. Oh the government tests for that! No actually they don't. They test to see if fish are spoiled and randomly test some types for mercury but they don't regularly test for much else. Odds are the oil will be broken down by then so you won't be able to detect the oil yourself but the toxic chemicals will still be there.

Re:Help me understand oil dispersants (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229078)


I've been reading a little about oil dispersants. I understand that basically they help to break down oil so that microorganisms can do their thing and use the oil as food. Maybe an oversimplification, but that is what I got out of it.

Not really. Dispersant merely help the oil mix with the water, they don't break it down in any real way. Your laundry detergent is an example of a product that does this. Normally oil and water don't mix very well because water is a polar solvent, and oil is a non-polar solvent. This leads to the oil floating to the surface, and eventually washing up on land. By allowing the two to mix, the oil gets dispersed over the full volume of the ocean rather than separating at the surface.

So now if you use oil dispersants, do you end up exacerbating the oxygen problem? If the microorganisms go nuts on the food supply, does this kill off even more of the ecosystem?

Good question. I guess we're going to find out.

Some Good News (5, Informative)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228570)

As reported by the WSJ [wsj.com]

BP PLC successfully inserted a tube into the broken pipe leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico early Sunday, a person close to the containment operation said, increasing the chances that the company will be able to siphon off much of the oil now gushing into the sea. ...

It's still unclear whether the new siphoning operation will work. Even in the best-case scenario, the tube won't capture all the leaking oil.

Re:Some Good News (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228618)

That sucks! Oh wait...

Re:Some Good News (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228906)

The best thing to speed along a solution to this problem would be a massive increase in the price of oil.

... Hear no evil. See no evil. (5, Insightful)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228608)

From TFA:

Scientists studying video of the gushing oil well have tentatively calculated that it could be flowing at a rate of 25,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day. The latter figure would be 3.4 million gallons a day. But the government, working from satellite images of the ocean surface, has calculated a flow rate of only 5,000 barrels a day.

The government has "top men" working on this. Who? "Top men" [wikipedia.org] .
Besides, it's silly to think there could be oil elsewhere than the surface.

BP has resisted entreaties from scientists that they be allowed to use sophisticated instruments at the ocean floor that would give a far more accurate picture of how much oil is really gushing from the well.

"The answer is no to that," a BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said on Saturday. "We're not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It's not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort."

Yes, there's no value (to us) in trying to determine exactly how badly we've screwed things... It's not like a better estimate would be useful in calculating a level of effort for the cleanup, possibly quantity of cleanup materials, or potential ocean chemistry changes.

Re:... Hear no evil. See no evil. (1)

game kid (805301) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228690)

For BP, "response effort" means "when the fuck can we start pumping again?" Things like "calculating a level of effort for the cleanup, possibly quantity of cleanup materials, or potential ocean chemistry changes" are not relevant to their business. (Those are good things to do, yes, but their business is not "doing good things", its "selling the black gold".)

Re:... Hear no evil. See no evil. (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228816)

For BP, "response effort" means "when the fuck can we start pumping again?"

I'm betting that they will never be pumping from that well ever again, and they likely know this. They are going to have to plug this hole up tight to make it stop leaking, and there is a trashed rig over the hole. It would be easier and cheaper to drill a new hole a few miles away.

Re:... Hear no evil. See no evil. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228922)

That is their primary plan for stopping the leak.

Re:... Hear no evil. See no evil. (3, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228698)

Well I can tell you one thing - the oil flow rate is no where NEAR 80,000 bbl per day. Only 3% of the oil FIELDS in the world produce more than 100,000 bbl per day, and these fields have dozens to hundreds of wells. The average well in Saudi Arabia, with it's immense deposits of light oil produces 5,000 bbl per day. A new field with a productive capacity of 100,000 bbl per day would be very unusual, and this is only ONE well.

The estimate of 5,000 bbl per day actually sounds high to me. This well is a mile down under immense pressure and in water barely above the freezing point. Not only that, it's a restricted flow because of crimps in the riser. There is a reason BP said 1000 bbl/day at the beginning of this event - that would be a typical flow rate from a well of this type.

Re:... Hear no evil. See no evil. (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228958)

There is a reason BP said 1000 bbl/day at the beginning of this event - that would be a typical flow rate from a well of this type.

Though, that would be a controlled flow rate, not the fire-hose w/o a nozzle shown in video. The fact is, no one actually knows how much oil is spewing from the well. I cannot imagine that attempts to accurately measure the actual flow rate would be a bad thing - except to BP, Transocean Limited, and Halliburton.

Re:... Hear no evil. See no evil. (4, Insightful)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229024)

Hmm, given that

1. BP used an inapplicable methodology for initial flow rate estimates
2. BP is injecting tons of dispersants at depth (so the oil will not reach the surface for years)
3. BP denied access to scientists wanting to do flow measurements,

I'm guessing BP knows they are closer to 50Kbbl/day than 5Kbbl/day.

Re:... Hear no evil. See no evil. (5, Interesting)

Peach Rings (1782482) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228780)

I can't understand why:

  • BP still has the authority to say "no you can't study the ocean floor." BP is the worst possible entity to be in charge of cleanup since there's no conceivable reason to expect them to be honest about the extent of the damage. This is an emergency, the military should be all over it. How can a corporation say that anyway, like they own the ocean floor? They operate at the will of the government, who grants them access to public resources like the seafloor...
  • Anyone even bothers asking BP for comment. The article presents them as an authoritative source on the matter. You might as well cover a criminal trial by asking the defendant about details of the crime.

Re:... Hear no evil. See no evil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32229138)

They operate at the will of the government

No, that would be authoritarianism. The government can't just kill an entity because it feels like it.

who grants them access to public resources like the seafloor

Public resources are public. Anyone can use them without asking the government's permission. I can send a robot down to the bottom of the ocean without anyone's permission. Nobody could stop me.

Re:... Hear no evil. See no evil. (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229002)

So, what's up with the South these days? I mean, comments from BP like this just call for a good old-fashioned lynching... Come on, guys, you are supposed to be good at that. Having a couple of bastards like this Mueller guy dangling from trees would probably speed up the efforts...

Call my a cynic... (2, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228678)

}"substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given"

Was there ever any doubt that it would be worse...?

So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228702)

If humans never (or, say before humans did so) drilled for oil, wouldn't the oil still be there, and occasionally be released by events such as earthquakes?

It's basically a natural organic substance, not a product of man (like artifical pesticides, nuclear waste, etc), so wouldn't the earth's ecosystem have dealt with it before/if we wern't around?

Or is there something done to prepare the oil before it's extracted (like injection of chemicals) that makes it unnatural?

I'm not saying this isn't a terrible disaster, but, disasters just happen sometimes.

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228774)

There are tar pits all around the world where this happens naturally. They tend to be a feature of the local geology. This is nothing the earth cant handle naturally over a few decades. The local ecology changes. Indigineous species already under threat from invasive outsiders may have to bite the bullet, finally. Instead of crab and oyster, we end up with snakehead fish and carp.

This isn't so much a disaster for the earth. This is a disaster for seafood lovers and tourists, and the people who depend on those industries for their livelihoods.

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228812)

Yeah, the earth adapts and gets through disasters, except.... the dinosaurs didn't come back, did they? Wooly mammoths? Where are they now?

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (1)

CyprusBlue113 (1294000) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228880)

What exactly do you think adapt means? Here's a hint: it doesn't mean return to status quo.

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (1)

smaddox (928261) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229050)

What? That is not at all what adapt means. If the world suddenly froze over, and humans adapted, they would not be returning to the status quo. To adapt is to survive in a new environment, or to become better suited to a habitat.

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228892)

That's absolutely right. It's like how 9/11 wasn't so much a disaster for all the people who died in the attack as it was for the hot dog vendors, and tourists who liked to visit the buildings.

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (3, Interesting)

HiThere (15173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229044)

It's a bit worse than that, though not substantially worse. (Depending, of course, on just how much oil is released.) This may be enough additional stress to convert the entire gulf into a dead zone, rather than the partial dead zone that we've dealt with previously.

If enough oil is released it could also spread a dead zone up the Gulf Stream, though I feel this is doubtful. OTOH, the ocean off-shore the coast is already home to many dead zones, so it might not require that much additional stress.

This could be a disaster to the fishing industries, which are already nearing collapse due to over-fishing and improper fishing. (Again, just adding a bit more stress to something that's already overstressed.) This, of course, will cause other food prices to rise, which they were already doing due to the increases in the price of oil.

Nothing here looks like a disaster to the Earth, but it's a pretty big disaster to the humans that happen to live near the area...and to some that don't live that near, but were already under near limiting stress. Also to some species. Some have probably already been wiped out. More probably will be. These were generally species that had already been pushed near extinction, and this will have been just the final blow. Others only live/d in a restricted area, and when that area is rendered uninhabitable, they die.

Just to put things in perspective, a nuclear war that killed off all humans and most other mammals wouldn't be a disaster to the Earth. Only to the people. But as a person, I would find it a major disaster. (Presuming that I lived long enough. Quite unlikely as I live in a major metropolitan area.) Saying that something isn't a major disaster just because it isn't a disaster to the Earth is stupidly unreasonable. Only the collision that split off the moon has counted as a major disaster to the Earth. Even the incident that killed off 90% of all species (genera?) wasn't a major disaster to the Earth.

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (2, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228846)

I remember reading an article quoting scientists who state that this does in fact happen, and marine organisms in areas where it does occasionally happen have evolved ways to metabolize the oil. I think the question becomes, does it ever, absent manmade drilling, release that quantity of oil into the water all at once? I'd guess no.

As noted in the article... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229126)

There isn't enough oxygen in the water to metabolize all that oil in time to prevent a disaster.

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228850)

That's like saying if humans never invented thermonuclear technology the sun would still be there. If we don't nuke ourselves to death the sun will eventually do it for us because it just happens sometimes.

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228984)

There is no doubt that the earth's ecosystem can handle such a disaster. There have been far worse extinction-scale events in Earth's history. It is just that it will take time, and we don't really know how long, for it to return back to normal. In the interim, the oceans we are accustomed to may not look the same, may not support the same level of fishes, etc. So it's bad for us during our short lifespans, as we find it hard to adjust when our shipping lanes are affected, when oil supplies are constricted even further, when food supplies change.

It is a very bad idea to fall back on the biosphere's resilience to environmental change, as such resilience is usually demonstrated over geological time, not human timescales. The Cretaceous asteroid impact event was a huge catastrophe that wiped out basically all the large animals on the planet. It has taken millions of years for large land mammals to evolve and take the place of the reptiles.

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32229040)

It's basically a natural organic substance... so wouldn't the earth's ecosystem have dealt with it before/if we wern't around?

All that is natural is not necessarily good or something that can have (anthropomorphic) checks and balances.

Take for example black holes. They are natural but lethal and have irriversable effects for people that come too close to them. Extinction is also natural, but it isn't (necessarily) good for the species who become extinct. Yes, the "earth's ecosystem" will deal with anything, including when our sun becomes a red giant which will then (likely) destroy all life on earth when that event occurs (assuming there is still life around to be destroyed).

A more passive and natural approach to disaster is learned helplessness [wikipedia.org] ; when you realize it's easier to accept pain and hardship rather than fight against it, like the dogs in Martin Seligman's experiments who were constantly electrocuted but weren't given an opportunity to escape. When there was an eventual opportunity to escape they would just lie in their urine whimpering instead of jumping to freedom. This is a natural reaction, but not healthy or evolutionarily beneficial.

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229052)

If humans never (or, say before humans did so) drilled for oil, wouldn't the oil still be there, and occasionally be released by events such as earthquakes?

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601072&sid=aUqFB_GbhRYM [bloomberg.com]

Haiti's 7.0 earthquake "may have cracked rock formations along the fault, allowing gas or oil to temporarily seep toward the surface, [Stephen Pierce, a geologist] said yesterday in a telephone interview."

What earthquakes do not do is drill a hole 18,000 feet deep.

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229082)

People die sometimes... but somewhat people consider different to die by natural causes from being killed.

Re:So, if we wern't drilling for oil... (4, Insightful)

Livius (318358) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229106)

The disasters would happen, but they wouldn't all happen in the same century.

Free Market Man is here! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228708)

The free market will fix this. People will stop putting BP gas in their car and BP will go out of business. Leading others to clean up the spill, garner goodwill with the public, and have consumers put that company's gas in their car.

Right?

Right?....

Right or Wrong, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228734)

Big Oil doesn't care. How much money are they losing by this accident alone? You think that would be enough motivation for them to take proper steps to prevent or contain this sort of event rapidly.

The sad truth is, the Oil industry is the untouchable vector. Since every other sector of society depends on it, you cant regulate it like any other market. At best it is handled with kid gloves, at worst, it isn't handled at all, and in fact given green lights by the powerful elite for unthinkable exploration ventures.

It is a clear indicator to me just how much the Oil industry cares when Exxon is still trying to weasel their way out of the Valdez spill. Having the BP President come out and state they would cover 'legitimate claims' was a publicity stunt to quell present and future locale economic fears, nothing more. When this is all said and done, and the pen hits the check book, this will head to court and be fought out there over the span of years, if not decades. I've seen no behavior by the Oil industry to give me reason they won't re-neg that 'verbal stop-gap'.

they better stop it pretty damn soon (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228760)

or they could end up poisoning the oceans globally, you know that ocean's circulates and what is in the gulf of mexico will soon be in the atlantic and mediterranean, and eventually find its way in to the indian and pacific oceans,

even if they stopped it today i wont trust seafood anymore ever.

Re:they better stop it pretty damn soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228954)

It's an oil spill, not a disaster movie. Not even half as big as Exxon Valdez, but in an economically more important biome. Get a hold of yourself.

Re:they better stop it pretty damn soon (1)

Cathoderoytube (1088737) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228978)

"even if they stopped it today i wont trust seafood anymore ever"

I don't trust it already. The whole industry is regulated by old one eyed fishermen in Salwesters who just spit on the floor all the time.

Re:they better stop it pretty damn soon (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228986)

That's a bit silly. If you round the spill up to 10 billion gallons, by the time it fully disperses, it will constitute much less than 1 part per trillion of the ocean.

I can see being wary of gulf catch, but why worry about stuff from New England?

So if... (1)

Sanctuary (124701) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228822)

The bacteria need small bits of oil and lot of oxygen to eat the oil why not in addition to breaking up the oil pump oxygen from the surface down to the depleted areas. Sure it will end up with mass amounts of CO2 in the water but then also make that area ripe for an algae/plankton bloom and then things would start to get better. That is help the other parts of the natural cycle. Maybe add in some bicarb to help keep the ph where it should be. Sure throwing chemicals into the water is bad, be we have already done that, now we need to add others to counteract the effects and neutralize things back to the state they were in before the spill.

Give the microbes the oxygen they need to feed on the oil, and then give the other algae/plankton what they need to eat the microbes and make more oxygen. Speed up what would naturally happen over the next 30+ years without human intervention. The planet is fairly good at correcting things on it own just not in time scale we can see, or if part of the correction lower the habitability for humans we may not see it, but the earth will eventually recover to its normal ebb and flow.

It is like helping an old lady across the street. Sure she could do it on her own but with some boy/girl scouts there they can help her across faster and safer.

Re:So if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32228852)

Building giant ships to go around skimming the oil from the surface would probably be an easier engineering project than blowing enough air under the water to bring up the oxygen concentration to expedite microbe decomposition.

Re:So if... (3, Insightful)

MoralHazard (447833) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229072)

Oh, so you have an economical, reliable method for:

  * pumping millions of tons of oxygen
  * almost a mile below the ocean's surface
  * and dissolving it in trillions of gallons of water

Goddamn armchair engineers... Seriously, you're about as divorced from reality as BP's PR team.

so? (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228834)

All this really means is that some of the fishing industry in the gulf will change to oil gathering.
And isn't it a good thing that the refineries are so close by?
They might call it Gulf Oil. Oh wait that name is already taken.

What is most amazing about this is that an oil rig caused it with a drilled hole.
Hasn't nature ever done such a thing as leak oil in the ocean?

I always wondered what was oil holding up that when we take it out of the ground...

In comparison to other man made disasters, like deforestation, where does it really rank?

Re:so? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228940)

There is a lot of wringing of hands going on in the press right now, but in reality there isn't much that can be pointed at as actual ecological damage from this. I've heard numbers like 10,000 tar balls collected, and 20 birds rescued.

Wait a year or so and see what the biosurveys show then there will be something to base a good discussion on. Personally I don't think they will show much because of this fact - the Gulf of Mexico naturally leaks 2000 bbp per day every day year in and year out. The best estimates we have are that the BP spill is on the order of 5,000 bbl per day, and it looks now like BP has choked off the main leak some 23 days after the mess started. Ultimately that is not a huge increase in the oil level already naturally present in the Gulf.

Re:so? (4, Insightful)

Gerafix (1028986) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229038)

That's like saying the sun naturally releases lots of radiation so it's okay to go jump into a nuclear reactor. The organisms around natural leaks are vastly different and have adapted to such locations over hundreds of thousands of years. And it's not like that 2000bbp, which I'll just take your word for, is all out of one location either. You can't just go pour oil over everything and then go, "Well oil naturally occurs so it'll be fine!" Really rather absurd.

Re:so? (1)

Gerafix (1028986) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228960)

Think Exxon Valdez x3, and that's just right now, they haven't stopped it.

Its a sequel.... (1, Funny)

3seas (184403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228854)

Dead Sea II

Nuke the F-ING thing. (1, Interesting)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228858)

Seriously. You can mod this a troll if you feel better. But I would much rather there be a small area of radiation from a tactical nuclear explosion, than the entire gulf coast destroyed the biggest oil spill in the history of mankind and one that will just keep on going and keep getting worse.
I know folks have bad feeling about nukes, but for fucks sake..it worked 4 out of 5 times for the Russians. It's time to do it before it's too late!
http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/62992,news-comment,news-politics,deepwater-horizon-gulf-mexico-oil-spill-should-bp-nuke-the-leak-like-the-russians [thefirstpost.co.uk]

Re:Nuke the F-ING thing. (4, Informative)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32228968)

You can't just drop a nuke on the seafloor and expect it to close the well. All it'll gonna do is blow away the sediment, leaving the well open. In order to close it, you'll have to drill into solid rock, lower the nuke down there and blow it to collapse the original well. At this point, you can as well do a relief drilling and shut it down with mud. Nuking a blowout makes sense only when you don't have the capability to geo-steer a relief drill precisely enough to hit the original hole. We can do that now, and it won't take much more time than drilling for a nuke. We could nuke the BP headquarters, though - that might help...

Re:Nuke the F-ING thing. (1)

UziBeatle (695886) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229012)

  THEY ignored Ripley too and we saw where that ended up.

  THEY will ignore a visionary like you as well.

  THEY always do.

  Pity the fools.

 

Big Plug (2, Interesting)

diakka (2281) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229036)

So maybe this is a stupid question, but why can't they just design a big plug and stick it in the pipe? Would that cause the pipe to rupture or something? Or try to reroute the oil by attaching a big to the pipe that's spewing oil?

Look at he bright side (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32229058)

If we let the Gulf fill with oil, The petro industry can't tell us there is a shortage again.

Since we can't seem to really do anything about it, lets all make up nasty oil industry jokes and shame the whole industry into ... the Gulf of Mexico.

As much money that goes through the oil industry, you'd think they would have installed a shut off valve. Of wait, they don't want to shut it off so why would they have installed a valve? (don't no body say they did, for it they really did, it'd been shut off by now) Instead they try to funnel it...

Maybe if they actually focused on shutting it, they might just figure it out.

And since they don't really want to shut of off, it must not be so serious.

Who owns the oil in the water? Does BP hold all claims to it?

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