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Gulf Oil Spill: Scientists Reporting Natural Cleanup Are Funded by BP and US Dept of Energy

Aug 24, 2010

A new report asserts that microbes are mopping up the much of the oil spilled in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. But there’s a problem.

Picture 62 Gulf Oil Spill: Scientists Reporting Natural Cleanup Are Funded by BP and US Dept of Energy

The Wall Street Journal reports today that a new scientific study found that microbes, or microscopic bacteria, are actually eating the oil spilled in the Deepwater Horion spill, taking a lot of that nasty pollution off our hands.

According to the Journal, “oil experts and microbiologists have long known that the Gulf of Mexico harbored bacteria that had evolved to feed on petroleum hydrocarbons from natural oil seeps.” The article continues, “the Gulf of Mexico may be rebounding more quickly than many had expected, aided by microscopic clean-up crews of oil-eating bacteria that have evolved among the natural petroleum seeps on the Gulf sea floor.”

The problem? For starters only one research lab, The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has confirmed this finding, while other labs remain skeptical. But the real kicker? The Journal fails to mention this, but a cursory Google search for the lab reveals that it is an affiliate of the US Department of Energy:

Picture 51 Gulf Oil Spill: Scientists Reporting Natural Cleanup Are Funded by BP and US Dept of Energy

On the other hand, a quick search for dissenting labs mentioned in the article, such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, which argues that, “based on their analysis, the 22-mile-long sub-surface oil plume may linger underwater for months,” reveals this:

Picture 43 Gulf Oil Spill: Scientists Reporting Natural Cleanup Are Funded by BP and US Dept of Energy

Interesting. Especially in light of this tidbit, also from the Journal article: “A government assessment earlier this month calculated that about 75% of the oil had been skimmed, evaporated, safely burned or dispersed. Several independent research teams, however, have argued that much of the oil still contaminates Gulf waters.”

And then there’s this bit from Huffington Post on Lawrence Berkeley’s research on the oil-eating microbes: “The research was supported by an existing grant with the Energy Biosciences Institute, a partnership led by the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois that is funded by a $500 million, 10-year grant from BP.”

We were all shocked, watching “An Inconvenient Truth,” to learn that Exxon had successfully recommended staff appointments for environmental positions in the Bush administration. Is it the Obama administration’s turn to meddle in fuzzy science?

After the disastrous PR fallout from the oil spill, the administration would certainly benefit from a motive to shift perception of the disaster from the worst oil spill of all time to the luckiest oil spill of all time.

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