Back To Reality

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | November 2010, Vol. 65 No. 11

As for the Gulf oil and Exxon Valdez disasters, granted both involved huge oil spills into ocean environments. But there the correlation stopped. Scientists from the Gulf Coast region tried to explain the differences and their story was picked up along the coast, but most of the major networks failed to pay any attention. It was more sensational to talk about the almost guaranteed horrific destruction of the Gulf Coast.

What local experts and scientists were trying to explain was that the ocean environments and ecosystems were radically different. Prince William Sound is in the northern portion of the Gulf of Alaska – very cold waters (there are icebergs floating around even in the summer for goodness sake!). The Gulf of Mexico is dramatically warmer with summer temperatures in the upper 80s F. The Valdez leak was surface/near shore; the Gulf of Mexico leak came from 5,000 feet down and was many miles from the coast. By the time the oil reached the surface, it had already been pulled apart and then hit warm wave action that immediately added to the breakdown of the oil.

Further, most of the national “experts” quoted failed to realize that oil is a natural occurring element in the Gulf of Mexico ecostructure. The Gulf has had oil under its seabed for hundreds of thousands of years – long before any humans showed up. Oil seeping up from the seabed has been occurring from many millennia. Microbes have developed in the Gulf that feast on oil and in turn are feasted on by other sea creatures, etc. and becomes part of the natural occurring Gulf of Mexico food chain. That’s why, within just a couple of months after the oil spill was permanently capped, the oil had all but disappeared and fisheries began to open back up.

Now, of course, the amount of oil spilled in the Gulf is many times greater than normal and there could still be long-term ecological impacts such as a major red time next summer from microbes having the feast of their lives. Most of the disaster predications for this summer were widely – and unnecessarily – exaggerated. But as our former vice president-turned-author/Hollywood mogul put it, this is an “inconvenient truth.”