Simple answers to simple questions

On May 16, during the biggest oil “spill” in American history, Fox News anchor Britt Hume was troubled by a nagging thought: “Where is the oil?” The nation spent the next eight weeks watching the Macondo oil gusher spew into the Gulf. But now that it’s been capped, many have returned to Hume’s query, echoing it with a childlike sense of wonder. For example:

Washington (AFP) – With BP’s broken well in the Gulf of Mexico finally capped, the focus shifts to the surface clean-up and the question on everyone’s lips is: where is all the oil?

Some oil has evaporated, some cleaned. The rest is still out there: matted on beaches in Grand Isle and Grand Terre, floating in tar balls “from South Pass to Southwest Pass”, staining Louisiana wetlands brown, clearly entering Lake Pontchartrain, and forming nearly 12,000 square miles of sheen on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Beyond that, most of the remaining oil is congregated in vast “plumes” under the surface, detected up to 50 miles from the Macondo wellhead.

And don’t forget about the oil in the food chain, which has been mixed with a dollop of toxic dispersant, for flavor.

This has been another edition of “Simple Answers to Simple Questions.”

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  • Oil and Corexit in the foodchain is making me big-time nervous.

    “The properties that facilitate the movement of dispersants through oil also make it easier for them to move through cell walls, skin barriers, and membranes that protect vital organs, underlying layers of skin, the surfaces of eyes, mouths, and other structures.”

    Yum…enjoy your seafood…but please sign this release form first. Thanks for participating in the experiment.

  • patricia stauder in new orleans

    Michael… you are saying that about “seafood”.. but you had hit the nail on the head with the answer… foodchain. foodchain, meaning, all foods… this will eventually affect the entire country, sooner or later… ya’ll just dont know it yet!

  • What the hell is it– can dispersant (+oil) easily move through membranes or not? I know how I’d bet, but it seems there’s widely varying reports.

    Earlier this last week Nola.com reported ( http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/07/producers_hope_louisiana_comme.html ):

    “For dispersants, another major concern for consumers, the FDA and NOAA are conducting professional smell tests to detect dispersant chemicals in fish tissue, but not chemical tests. The FDA has determined that the chemical compounds in the dispersants are water-soluble, and are highly unlikely to accumulate into fatty tissue of fish or shrimp.

    “‘In order for that compound to get into the flesh of the fish, which is what’s relevant for food safety, it has to pass through a membrane, whether it’s the gill or gut membrane,’ Kraemer said. ‘Those membranes are lipids, they’re oil-based. So the water-soluble compounds are not going to move through that membrane and they don’t move through it.’

    “The state and FDA will continue to collect fish samples and test them in areas east of the river.”

  • Fish meal, if I remember right, is used both in aquaculture and gardening (don’t know if it’s used in large scale agriculture or not.) I wonder if steps will be taken, or IF steps can be taken, to keep Gulf fish from being processed this way.

    Of course, we can let the market work it’s magic…just like it did with Chinese drywall.

  • Sarah

    Fish meal goes into some of the advanced formula “natural” dry pet foods like eukanuba dog food and Natural Balance Ultra Premium cat food. But it doesn’t have to be fish “meal”. Sometimes the words “ocean fish” are used and after all, the Gulf of Mexico is the ocean. I guess they figure all this disbursements are in such small quantities comparatively, it won’t matter, and anyway, it could just be “stomach poisoning”.

  • Courrèges

    I really didn’t understand why this question was being asked either. It would be one thing to have a news report saying “OIL SHEEN SHRINKING; COASTAL CLEANUP CONTINUES,” it’s another to acts as if magical pixies made all the oil disappear. It would actually be better if all the oil were on the surface, waiting to be skimmed off, but it’s not.