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New Developments on the fate of BP’s Oil

August 20, 2010

Several recent developments further raise doubts on Administration’s attempt to disappear BP’s Oil in the Gulf

The vast majority of the oil has now been contained, it’s been skimmed, Mother Nature has done its part, it’s evaporated.” Carol Browner, President Obama’s Energy Czar, August 4, 2010, White House Press Conference.

Carol Browner the President's Energy Czar with President Obama.

As we reported on August 8, the Administration released conducted by NOAA concluded that that 75 % of the oil spilled from the BP gush has been collected, burned, degraded or evaporated. However, in recent days, several research institutes known for their work on oceans and oil spills have released reports provide evidence for a very different conclusion — most of the oil is still in the water.

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1. Woods Hole Oceanographic researchers find enormous plume 3000 feet below Gulf Surface.

Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have detected a plume of hydrocarbons that is at least 22 miles long and more than 3,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, a result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, reports a study published in Science. The 1.2-mile-wide, 650-foot-high plume of trapped hydrocarbons provides a clue on where all the oil has gone as oil slicks on the surface disappear.”  Excerpt: See full article on Mongabay . The results of the study are contained in a peer-reviewed report published in the the August 19, 2010 issue of the journal Science.

You can also hear several of the scientists who participated in the WHOI study on today’s NPR’s Morning Edition and obtain additional information from a lengthy article in Today’s Washington Post.

You can see the WHOI release and a series of photos at this link.

Knowledge of the plume structure gained by the use of the AUV Sentry guided the team in collecting physical samples for further laboratory analyses using a cable-lowered water sampling system that measures conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD). The CTD was instrumented with a TETHYS mass spectrometer. (Photo by Dan Torres, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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2. University of Georgia Sea Grant report which estimated that more than 70 % of the oil spilled into the Gulf as a result of the BP disaster remains. Nicely reported on NPR’s All Things Considered See our story posted yesterday. See also NPR’s report on the Congressional Hearing held by Rep. Markey (D-Mass) challenging the Administration’s findings.

3. See also summary of Dr. Ronald Kendall’s testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee discussed in our August 8th post.

We can only wonder why the Administration rushed to release its rosy report. Surely NOAA scientists  and leaders were familiar with the studies going on at the University of Georgia and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and that these studies might paint a very different picture. It would have been prudent for the Administration to provide a peer reviewed report with full documentation and a full discussion of the results of other studies with relevance to the issue.

Attempts to downplay the extent and impacts of the oil spill can only harm our ability to develop response actions, compensation and policies commensurate with the full measure of the BP disaster and the risks of future drilling in high pressure high temperature oil and gas deposits deep below the sea bottom. The Administration should avoid repeats so as not to further harm its credibility.

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