So Whatever Happened To All That Oil Spilled In The Gulf Anyway?

Remember all that oil that BP spilled into the Gulf this summer? Whatever became of it? Well, good news. Bacteria ate most of it, reports Slate, and the other stuff was skimmed back up, evaporated, burned off, or it got diluted out into the seas.

But while the ocean might be doing alright, the coastline is a different story, with 113 miles undergoing cleanup and another 55 awaiting approval in Louisiana alone. Those stains will take longer to remove.

Will The Gulf Ever Be Oil-Free? [Slate]
Gulf of Mexico oil spill continues to foul 168 miles of Louisiana coastline [The Times-Picayune]
After Oil Spill Crisis, a Protector Keeps Watch [NYT]


Edit Your Comment

  1. dolemite says:

    And…hows the fishing/sea life?

    • ReaperRob says:


    • Necoras says:

      Fishing probably isn’t great. Any current population is likely hurting. However, we just dumped a TON of energy into the system, and over the next few generations, as that energy filters up from bacteria through the food chain to fish, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some population booms over the next several years.

      The real problematic issue was chemical dispersants. Oil leaks into the gulf constantly, so there has evolved a process to handle it (the ravenous bacteria). It takes time, and some things die in the process, but over all it would have been handled pretty amicably. But, BP came along and dumped toxic chemical dispersants into the water down at the well site to try and keep the amount that surfaced low. Sounds great until you realize that they pay penalties based on how much oil hits the surface. More chemicals dumped down below = less surfacing oil = more profits for BP. Oh, and those dispersants aren’t part of the natural environment, and so they don’t get disposed of nearly as easily.

      Everything will likely recover eventually, but it looks like the corporations CYA operations just made things worse…. as usual.

      • YokoOhNo says:

        I like when people back up the opinion with guesses! I’m with you, this was a boom to the ecology of future fish generations! Probably going to see some new species out of this and for that we thank you, BP…putting Darwin to shame, BIAAAATCHES!!

      • david.c says:

        “Everything will likely recover eventually, but it looks like the corporations CYA operations just made things worse…. as usual.”

        They wouldn’t need to “CYA” if it weren’t for stupid regulations by stupid government agencies. Big Federal Government is Bad … always has been … always will be.

        • pythonspam says:

          Yes, because we should get rid of all regulations and let companies police themselves.
          And while we are at it, I would like to apologize to BP for the hateful and completely untrue being said about them by wacko-greenviromentalists and the liberal media.

        • Nisun says:

          Care to explain?? Oh wait NVM.. Nice talking point. Next time try using facts and logic.

          • White Scorpion says:

            I may be mistaken, but I think david.c is saying the Bush and Obama administrations signed off on the safety of this well and allowed it’s operation. BP is not the only one to take the blame, although the media would have you believe otherwise.

    • SonarTech52 says:

      The fish is already oiled up and ready to fry!

    • Balaenoptera says:

      The fishing is pretty decent, but the markets are awful because don’t trust that gulf fish are safe. There are observers on some boats that take samples and send them into labs to be tested, but I don’t know what the results are. The gulf is used to massive fish and invert kills due to anoxic conditions from fertilizers washing in from the Mississippi and other harmful algal bloom conditions. If the sediment and food chain remains toxic, there could be continual problems though. Actually, with the fishing bans, some fisheries might be slightly better off, but its a pretty crappy trade off.

  2. Holybalheadedchrist! says:

    Well, rest assured. The New and Improved Repulican Congress will get to the bottom of this. And by “get to the bottom,” I mean they will see who will pay them the most money to do absolutely nothing. THAT will get them sea birds clean.

    • dolemite says:

      No way…they are busy trying to repeal the healthcare reform, because they blame the economy/loss of jobs TOTALLY on the fact all the corporations and small business owners can’t afford to hire anyone due to Obamacare! My favorite part of that is…they want to repeal it first, then try and figure out a good replacement at some later date.

      • c!tizen says:

        they want to repeal it first, count their kickbacks, THEN try to figure out a profitab….er, good replacement at some later date.

        fixed it for you.

      • cynical_reincarnation says:

        I’d like to see a real attempt at a good law…
        This one is kinda broken, with all kinds of companies and groups getting exemptions.

    • danmac says:

      You forgot to mention the impeachment proceedings that are doubtlessly imminent.

      • stormbird says:

        No, they aren’t going to make that mistake again. The Republicans ended up looking like morons and prudes. Rep Issa, the fellow now running the oversight committee, has released his list of investigations and there’s nothing that would lead to impeachment. He specifically said he’s not going to investigate the Obama administration offering a federal job to someone planning on running against Sen Specter in the 2010 election (a felony).

        • Holybalheadedchrist! says:

          I fail to see how offering someone a job is a crime, but go ahead and yell at me.

          • Zowzers says:

            Its called a conflict of interest.

            “Whoever solicits or receives … any….thing of value, in consideration of the promise of support or use of influence in obtaining for any person any appointive office or place under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.” — 18 USC Sec. 211 — Bribery, Graft and Conflicts of Interest: Acceptance or solicitation to obtain appointive public office”

          • Anonymously says:

            I didn’t understand the reference or problem either so I looked it up. Allegedly someone offered Joe Sestak a job *in exchange for him dropping out of the primary election.*

            This is the same Issa that doesn’t understand to count money properly, btw.

    • Zowzers says:

      So they are going to do the same thing a Democrat Congress would do? Excellent! Status quo pats on the back all around!

  3. Tim says:

    Is the ocean really doing alright?

    Think about it. If bacteria ate the oil, that doesn’t mean that the oil, or its effects, are gone. Oil can’t be good for bacteria to eat, and even if it is, anything in that huge a volume has to screw up the ecosystem somehow.

    • FatLynn says:

      No, it’s the other way around. It is GOOD for the bacteria, and therefore the bacteria are over-growing and hurting other forms of life.

      • Zowzers says:

        exactly, Bacteria would not process oil unless it was a normal food source. Having such an excess of food means a huge population boom for the bacteria which will impact the rest of the environment there, for better or worse, depending on if that bacteria is food or competition for food for the rest of the flora and fauna in the area.

      • partofme says:

        How is their overgrowth hurting other life forms? I’m not saying it doesn’t, but bacteria like these generally play a cleanup and prey role. In typical predator-prey models, an influx in prey does not hurt the predators. Sure, there is a perturbation in the population dynamics, but the predators will still benefit. There may be selective short-term benefits for predators of certain types of bacteria, and one should look at the timescales involved (related to the natural timescales of the influx of the bacteria in response to the oil and the population dynamics between two competing predator populations). The point is that this kind of reasoning needs to be fleshed out, because “there is a perturbation” does not imply “that perturbation is bad”.

        • jebarringer says:

          Surplus bacteria can create anoxic conditions, which is kindof a bad thing for any creature that needs oxygen to live. It’s similar to how algae blooms can be very bad things.

          • partofme says:

            Thanks for the mechanism! I like learning things, and it’s nice to be pointed in the right direction. It seems that the Gulf has natural dynamics that produce such hypoxic conditions seasonally, but NOAA has said that the spill has not artificially created dead zones via this mechanism. Low oxygenation will have to go into a larger model to capture all the effects, but I think the jury is still out on what the final conclusion will be.

    • rpm773 says:

      It’s ok. There were no trans-fats in the oil

    • Megalomania says:

      what do you mean that oil “can’t be good” for them to eat. There is a fundamental misunderstanding there about what the word “eat” means in this context. The bacteria didn’t accidentally consume this along with their regular meal, they broke down the chemical bonds in it.

      This does mean that now there’s a surplus of bacteria due to the boom in their ‘food’ supply however, which can in itself be a bad thing.

      • Necoras says:

        Actually the bacteria do indeed eat the oil, just as you eat a tasty steak. There’s oil leaking into those waters all the time, and there has evolved bacteria which can process crude as well as you do glucose. Nature’s miracles.

        Surplus bacteria is not a bad thing. Surplus bacteria is more food for higher up the food chain, probably a good thing. What *was* an issue, is that you need 2 components to eat: food, and oxygen. Well, we dumped a sh***ton of food into the water so guess what happened? They ate all of the oil, and used a LOT of oxygen doing it. You had entire swathes of ocean which were deadly to animal life because they couldn’t breathe in them. The levels should all level out, but that was the main problem resulting from surplus bacteria.

  4. dush says:

    Things must be fine if there’s no stories about it on the nightly news anymore.

  5. vioviovioletta says:

    The ocean is doing terribly, the coastline is screwed and there is no way that all of the oil is gone. I live in Pensacola, FL and I know first hand that they aren’t/didn’t clean up the oil on the coastline, they just buried it. You can dig down a few feet and find little balls of oil…it’s disgusting. I’ve also seen video of a man who caught a fish in the Gulf and it’s belly was FULL of oil. It’s a shame that everyone thought the mess would just go away or fix itself. Some people here think that everything is just fine, but I and many of my friends know that it isn’t.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I’ve seen the results of hopefully minor spills on south Florida beaches for years. Heard stories of the shipping that was sunk in World War II put tar balls on east coast beaches for years.

      ‘They’ simply want this to go away,

    • outlulz says:

      The article states that coastlines are still feeling the effects of the spill. There just aren’t giant floating pools of oil around the Gulf anymore.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Given the Alaska coastline fisherman are just now starting to recover in a significant way from the last oil spill decades ago, I imagine the effects will be long-lasting.

    • partofme says:

      After RTFA, you’d know that a major difference between the Gulf and the Alaska coastline is that there is much more natural seepage in the Gulf, so there is a nice population of oil-eating bacteria there ready to spring into action. Not saying there won’t be long-lasting effects.. just saying this reasoning is bad due to an idea presented in TFA.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        So I need to RTFA, even though there wil still be long-lasting effects like I claimed? Okay…

        • partofme says:

          I didn’t say there “will be”, though I certainly left the door open to a “might be”. And yes, you need to RTFA when your reasoning is directly contradicted by TFA. That implies that the reasoning needs to be changed. There “might be” a reasoning mechanism to get you to long-lasting effects… but you certainly haven’t identified one. It’s a shame that not all ecological situations are isomorphic, isn’t it?

    • tooluser says:

      I’ve never met a farmer yet who would admit that they ever make money. Fishermen are of the same breed.

      And there is no right to health insurance.

  7. u1itn0w2day says:

    Bacteria apparently didn’t eat squat. Layers of spilled oil settling on ocean floor.

    • Thomas Palmer says:

      So oil is heavier than water?

      • u1itn0w2day says:

        A recent federal study is basically pointing to the dispersants causing the oil to sink. I’m not sure about the chemistry or contents of these dispersants in particular.

  8. Bsamm09 says:

    When are they reinstating their dividend!?!

  9. truthandjustice says:

    A couple more to add to the greatest lies list — (while saying trust me with my fingers crossed and my hands grabbing your wallets):

    The Gulf seafood is just fine.
    The ocean’s doing all right.
    The oil is all gone and nature took care of it.
    Corexit is not only harmless — it also enhances that special “Cajun” seasoning on the seafood.
    The guv’mint, EPA, are only looking out for YOUR interests. (With a wink and a nod.)
    Saw how fast the recession disappeared . . . (/sarcasm) that’s how fast the Gulf tragedy and the ecological consequences disappeared too. WOW!

    Amerika — How’s that cool-aid working for you?

  10. bdcw says:

    Slate is full of it… and IT is NOT oil:

    Scientists Find Thick Layer Of Oil On Seafloor

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      Oil on ocean floor, well that’s what disperants do, disperse and not disolve. I don’t know who it worse Slate or slime that keeps on trying to make this ‘go away’.

      • Chaosium says:

        Slate’s just another tool, I wonder which advertiser is pleased by this, or if they just want to continue to get invited to the right parties?

  11. PadThai says:

    A friend of mine just got very very sick from exposure to the chemical dispersants at Fort Desoto.

  12. airren says:
  13. Chaosium says:

    “or it got diluted out into the seas.”

    So, essentially what they’re saying is hat nothing happened to it. The majority is still out there.

  14. Spook Man says:

    “got diluted out into the seas”

    You just don’t dilute oil in water.. Ok, credibility of statement, ZERO

    • TuxedoCartman says:

      No kidding. That was the dumbest statement I’ve read in a while. By that logic, I suppose apprehending criminals shouldn’t be a concern, because they got diluted into the greater human population.

    • duderonomy says:

      Sure you can. The word you’re thinking of is “dissolve.”

  15. jeffile says:

    Remember all the shipping and military vessels sunk during WWII? Where did all that oil and fuel go? According to many of the previous comments I’d have to conclude this generation must have genetic defects and no access to drinkable water. Yes, the oil spill was serious and caused many problems but please keep it in context rather than spewing PC feel good rheteric.

  16. davidsco says:

    Or, it’s part of the cause of all the dead fish and birds cropping up all over the world. Hmmm