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Huge Amounts of Oil Found On Gulf of Mexico Floor 426

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-crab-for-oil dept.
intellitech tips news of a study examining the Gulf of Mexico sea floor in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Marine scientists have found a thick layer of oil, and say it has devastated life there. "Studies using a submersible found a layer, as much as 10cm thick in places, of dead animals and oil, said Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia. Knocking these animals out of the food chain will, in time, affect species relevant to fisheries. She disputed an assessment by BP's compensation fund that the Gulf of Mexico will recover by the end of 2012. ... 'The impact on the benthos was devastating,' she told BBC News. 'Filter-feeding organisms, invertebrate worms, corals, sea fans — all of those were substantially impacted — and by impacted, I mean essentially killed. Another critical point is that detrital feeders like sea cucumbers, brittle stars that wander around the bottom, I didn't see a living (sea cucumber) around on any of the wellhead dives. They're typically everywhere, and we saw none.'"
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Huge Amounts of Oil Found On Gulf of Mexico Floor

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 21, 2011 @08:15PM (#35273718)

    "Huge Amounts of Oil Found On Gulf of Mexico Floor"

    Yeah... drill baby drill. Oh, hang on...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Exactly. That's how this whole mess started.
    • by Glock27 (446276) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @09:46AM (#35278460)

      Yeah... drill baby drill. Oh, hang on...

      Drill baby drill! We need a sane energy policy or our already struggling economy will take another dive soon. Things aren't looking at all good given the unrest in the Middle East right now.

      More drilling sounds like a plan to me as long as basic safety procedures are followed. It took multiple violations for this well to fail. Thousands of rigs have operated there for many years with no problems. After Deepwater Horizon I'm sure all of the companies involved realize there's no net cost savings in skimping on safety.

      On a more scientific note, I notice there's absolutely no quantitative information in the linked article. Exactly how much of the 615,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico seafloor was affected? I'm guessing it was far less than 1%, but of course that wouldn't sound nearly so alarming...

      According to Wikipedia, about 5 million barrels of oil were released into the Gulf, at 42 gallons per barrel for 210,000,000 gallons. Also according to Wikipedia, the total amount of water in the Gulf is 660 quadrillion gallons (6.6e15 gallons). So the oil released represented about 0.0000003% of the total volume of the seawater. If you released the same percentage of oil into a full standard bathtub (36 gallons) you'd be releasing about 0.0004 grams of oil...not even close to a single drop. Also reflect on the fact that around half the oil evaporated quite soon after the spill.

      This is not to say such spills are negligible, but I hope the numbers put things into a bit more of a perspective. Newspapers sell (and websites get hit) based on how alarming the story sounds...

      • And your source for "around half the oil evaporated quite soon after the spill"? I've never seen oil evaporate in any timeframe I'd call soon. Of course we're talking crude oil here. So without having the assay [wikipedia.org], it's impossible to say how much of the oil evaporated. It'd be nice, if your number was right, but I suspect it's a bunch of prospective future oil in the form of the male bovine variety. I have a suspicion where you got that figure. Granted the methane evaporated, but that figure is separate from t

      • by ajs (35943)

        Drill baby drill! We need a sane energy policy or our already struggling economy will take another dive soon.

        Hurm... I'm not sure I buy this. Do you have some data?

        Things aren't looking at all good given the unrest in the Middle East right now.

        You're joking, right? When in the past 100 years has there not been unrest in the Middle East? I've lived through decades with many simultaneous wars going on there, depending on what you call "The Middle East" which can include or not include states such as Iran, Egypt, etc. depending on which definition you use. One fundamental constant: oil has a dollar value and someone's going to want to do that conversion.

        More drilling sounds like a plan to me as long as basic safety procedures are followed.

        Of course, and guaranteeing that takes tim

  • It's ridiculous. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rossman (593924) on Monday February 21, 2011 @08:18PM (#35273740) Homepage

    And this is the problem with allowing big business to violate the environment. No matter how much they can assure us nothing will go wrong, something generally does go wrong and then we're screwed. Sure we "fined them" and "made them pay for the cleanup" but still the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico got badly damaged and will take a long time to recover (2012 my ass - shit, there is still oil on beaches in Alaska from the Valdez spill, that happened decades ago).

    When will we learn that there are some risks we just shouldn't take.

    • by Cougem (734635) on Monday February 21, 2011 @08:37PM (#35273900)
      Some risks we just shouldn't take? What risks? Drilling for oil? Come on, give us a break, if we didn't harvest fossil fuels civilisation would be far less advanced than we are now. I acknowledge BP messed up and oil companies are generally assholes, but don't pretend America would be better off without them.
      • by hedwards (940851)

        To a point, you're correct, but if we'd started getting serious about alternatives in the 70s when it became really obvious what we were screwing with, we wouldn't be drilling in such risky areas.

        • by dogmatixpsych (786818) on Monday February 21, 2011 @09:22PM (#35274250) Homepage Journal
          And who's to blame for killing alternatives in the 70s? Mainly the radical environmental groups. I'm not saying they are solely to blame but some of our heavy dependence on fossil fuels today is because of them.
          • by Dr. Spork (142693)
            Sadly, you're right. As it happens, I belong to some environmental groups (nothing radical) and trust me, I scream when they start on their "no nuke" bullshit. Luckily, I'm not the only one. Environmentalists are coming around, but too many (like my enemy Al Gore) are just too stupid to overcome the "ick" factor of nuclear power. I think it will take another 10 years before the hippies die and environmental groups will be led by people who have a more fact-based view of what's actually good for the environm
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by hsthompson69 (1674722)

        Mod parent up. If the cost is the occasional environmental disaster, and the benefit is modern civilization that can support the food and energy needs of a growing population, thank you very much, but I'll choose modern civilization.

        More people have died in the past 30 years because of a lack of cheap energy than from any environmental disaster caused by the petroleum industry.

        • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday February 21, 2011 @08:55PM (#35274042)

          False dichotomy. No reason we could not drill on land, use nuclear power, or any number of things that would have prevented this. Hell, we could just require the proper safety measures be used and hang the CEO if they fail to do that. I bet a couple Execs with broken necks would sort this shit right out.

          • No reason we couldn't drill on land except the average well offshore produces thousands of barrels a day, while the average well onshore produces approximately three barrels of oil a day. We could do it, but that would be an awful lot of wells.
      • by hawguy (1600213) on Monday February 21, 2011 @08:46PM (#35273976)

        Come on, give us a break, if we didn't harvest fossil fuels civilisation would be far less advanced than we are now

        Or, perhaps if we didn't drill for oil in high risk places, we'd be much farther along with alternatives to oil (including nuclear) and we wouldn't feel that we *have* to drill in water a mile deep.

        • Who is to blame for that? All sides of the political spectrums: extreme environmentalists, oil and coal special interest groups, liberals, conservatives - everyone is to blame. But I think that it's not entirely correct to say if we didn't drill for oil in such deep water, then we'd have more alternatives. Maybe the causal arrow points the other way. Maybe we don't have the alternatives so we drill in deep water.
        • by Graff (532189) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @02:33AM (#35276050)

          we'd be much farther along with alternatives to oil (including nuclear)

          We'd be much further with nuclear if the environmentalists had gotten their heads out of their asses decades ago and stopped getting in the way of nuclear research and nuclear power development. Only now that the situation is starting to get desperate are they saying "oops, my bad". They still won't admit they were needlessly fear-mongering for years.

      • by unity100 (970058) on Monday February 21, 2011 @08:51PM (#35274022) Homepage Journal
        yea. civilization would be FAR less advanced than we are now, like .... aaah, how, exactly ? as in electrical energy ? or solar ?

        which, we are trying to make a transition to, at this time and age, a whole 100 years late ?

        as long as there are people who are buying bullshit, like you, these kind of thing does not end.
        • by CodeBuster (516420) on Monday February 21, 2011 @10:29PM (#35274680)
          It's not bull. The life that you now enjoy would have been practically unimaginable to someone living in the 19th century, before the advent of cheap carbon energy and the invention of internal combustion. I don't know about you, but modern transportation, the green revolution (cheap and abundant food) and antibiotics, to name just a few of the advances enabled by hydrocarbons, are nothing to be sneezed at. Solar and wind energy cannot yet replace our energy needs, not even close. Even if we squeeze every last efficiency gain that we can reasonably get, it still won't be enough. Like it or not, fossil fuels are going to be with us for a while longer and most probably until they are completely used up; they're just aren't good enough substitutes in many applications yet.
          • by pizzach (1011925)

            I think "good enough" is not quite the right word. It is more likely fossil fuels will become bad enough before other options become good enough. It is a bit similar how there are no options that are "good enough" compared to fast food for Americans. Even if you are choking yourself on your way down.

            I have a feelling I will be taking a beating for this post...

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            Solar and wind energy cannot yet replace our energy needs, not even close.

            Untrue. Renewable could provide all the energy we need, optionally supplemented by nuclear. We put a man on the moon, how long do you think it would take to develop space-based solar arrays that work 24/7 if we put the same amount of effort into that? Nuclear only got where it is now because most of the early and very expensive R&D was done for military applications.

            Between solar, wind, wave, geothermal, hydro, biofuels, modern nuclear, hydrogen and the rest we could cut our dependence on oil in 20 year

        • by c6gunner (950153) on Monday February 21, 2011 @11:47PM (#35275254)

          Yep, because you don't need to use energy to make solar cells - they just fall out of the sky. And because industrial grade smelters can run off a couple calculators daisy-chained together. And lithium is an inexhaustible resource.

          Solar isn't even a solution TODAY. If you honestly think we could have transitioned to it 100 years ago, you are completely ignorant of what's involved. The only reason we can even CONSIDER it now is because of the relatively cheap energy which we've been ripping out of the ground for the last century.

    • by aztektum (170569)

      And this is the problem with allowing big business to violate the environment.

      This is the sort of mindset that needs to change. It isn't big business doing this. It's greedy human beings. We need to start calling businesses what they are: legal constructs that only exist on paper.

      The laws should bar people from using them as shields and instead hold the individuals directly responsible.

  • win win! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday February 21, 2011 @08:18PM (#35273742)
    Now all the wildlife is perfectly preserved for future generations to study after we've finished killing them all off. Oil companies are always thinking of our children.
  • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Monday February 21, 2011 @08:18PM (#35273744) Homepage Journal

    All those dead animals will be oil in a few million years. We should be *thanking* BP for making more oil, not reprimanding them for the spill.

  • by magarity (164372) on Monday February 21, 2011 @08:22PM (#35273774)

    "I didn't see a living (sea cucumber) around on any of the wellhead dives"
     
    I'd like to see a larger survey, please. Of course right next to where the well broke there will be a significant problem with marine life. Please examine what exactly is the area impacted.

    • Please examine what exactly is the area impacted.

      Real and concrete statistical information that attempts to give a plausible and reasonably clear big picture is boring.

  • by rsilvergun (571051)
    BP will keep any compensation claims in court until a more favorable (READ: Republican) administration is in office to sweep the whole thing away (note I said away, it's already been swept under the rug, or the ocean as it were). If you don't like it, stop voting Republican. Jeez, they've come out & publicly said they want to dismantle the EPA...
    • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Monday February 21, 2011 @09:43PM (#35274376) Homepage Journal

      BP will keep any compensation claims in court until a more favorable (READ: Republican) administration is in office to sweep the whole thing away (note I said away, it's already been swept under the rug, or the ocean as it were). If you don't like it, stop voting Republican. Jeez, they've come out & publicly said they want to dismantle the EPA...

      To be fair, the way our environmental law works in America right now, EPA included, is horribly flawed.

      Its original mission was to stop the kinds of stuff that *everyone*, right- and left-wing both, can agree is bad: dumping waste into public water systems, belching smoke next to a school, and so forth.

      The modern environmentalist movement has moved on from there to basically banning any and all projects, everywhere, if it impacts the environment in the slightest. Some ripe examples of environmentalist hypocrisy:
      1) Building a wind farm in upstate Virginia? Some lawyers who owned a vacation farm there (and had *fought* NIMBYs before for companies) sued and got construction blocked.
      2) Building an offshore wind farm? Teddy Kennedy,Mr. 90% voting rating by environmental groups, sues to have it blocked.
      3) Building a massive solar project in the Mojave desert? Sierra Club sues to have it blocked.
      4) Building a new interstate in North Carolina? 10 river snails found in a new branch of a river mean the project has to be rerouted at a cost of billions of dollars and with X tons of extra pollution going into the atmosphere every day from all the extra car-miles being driven, let alone the extra time on the commute.
      5) The California High Speed Rail system, which has the support of environmentalists, is currently slogging through its three year and multibillion dollar environmental impact report. They've already been threatened to be sued by environmentalists for going through Pacheco Pass. (And if they went through Altamont? They'd be sued, too.)

      Etc., etc.

      The arguments always made by these duplicitous bastards is that, "Well, we aren't against X (Wind power, solar, etc.), we're just against it here." And if the place isn't 100% perfect, the judge will agree, and it'll get moved elsewhere, at which point the project gets sued again, and it gets delayed and moved again, and so forth.

      One editor put it exceptionally well: You look at all of these developments that environmentalists love - canal walks by DC, highways leading to trail heads in the Sierras, and so forth. And then you realize that all of these things would be impossible to build today. We're so screwed up in our modern society that we could never do another Erie Canal, or a Hoover Dam, or the Interstate System. It's impossible.

      So something needs to change. I wouldn't say that banning the EPA is the right way of going about it, but limiting and restricting the EPA to deal simply with actual sources of pollution, would be a very good thing. So they would no longer be an unelected and unaccountable limiter on construction in the US. Revising the Endangered Species Act to eliminate its abuses would be an excellent accompaniment.

      More importantly though, we need reform for environmental lawsuits. Perhaps for every major project, a tribunal of judges could be set up to hold all hearings in a unified and systemic fashion. So lawsuits can no longer bounce projects around the countryside, and so that projects no longer require themselves to be perfect to be allowed to go forward, but merely the best option among several choices. And their default behavior should be to allow the project to proceed.

      • Please don't lump NIMBYs and anti-technology enviro-nut groups in with environmentalists.

        I think the word "environmentalist" might be beyond salvaging these days, it's more far-gone than "hacker"...some have suggested "enviro-technologist" or "enviro-capitalist," and while they have the right words in them to make they'll never be confused with the nutjob/NIMBY crowd, they just aren't right for the job...

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Monday February 21, 2011 @08:38PM (#35273918)

    How is anyone supposed to make an assessment of this story? There is no data presented, no links to scientific articles, and the quotation referenced 'around the wellhead' where of course you would expect severe effects.

    I realize this is Slashdot, but surely there has to be a minimal standard for reporting on a technical site.

    • by rta (559125) on Monday February 21, 2011 @09:17PM (#35274202)

      This article doesn't pass the smell test for a few reasons.

      a) Everything i've heard so far about the dissolved methane has been pretty positive. e.g. http://www.upstreamonline.com/incoming/article240856.ece [upstreamonline.com]
      The current article doesn't make anything but a FUD statement that the methane is "a big deal".

      b) Having watched live video feeds (for hundreds of hours (Go CRAW! )) from the well area during the capping process two things don't jive: First of all the area immediately around the well, say within 200m or so didn't have anything living on it. It was just mud. Occasionally (maybe once a day at most ) a fish , squid or shark would swim by, but that's it. No crabs, sea cucumbers, corals or anything else were on the bottom. This is probably because it was all at 5000 ft depth where there's no light and not a whole heck of a lot going on. Second, even around the well there was no actual oil visible.

      c) I'm glad they took samples over "2600 square miles". What percentage of the area was impacted ? where ? over such a huge area even if all the oil had sunk straight to the bottom it would be a vanishingly small amount. certainly not enough to "choke off" anything. Also, as noted in point "b" the corals and sea stars etc would have to be some distance away from the well anyway because coral needs sunlight... which doesn't exist 1 mile down.

      d) there's no mention of just how many natural oil and gas seeps there are in the GOM. (answer: thousands). Let's wait and see if those samples really show that the oil is from the mc 252 well.

      i fully believe that some of the oil ended up on the bottom and that it's caused damage, but on the balance whatever truth there may be in this article is being spun in a misleading and scare-mongering way. The GOM is open for shrimping and the shrimp is testing out fine.

  • deep water is cold (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lotho brandybuck (720697) on Monday February 21, 2011 @08:44PM (#35273962) Homepage Journal
    Under 1000ft, seawater is usually under 4C. All the processes and critters that break down the oil work much slower in the cold. A lot of that area will probably remain dead until more silt falls over it and its recolonized from scratch. This is sad, but I doubt it was unexpected by anyone who knew anything.
    • Between the damage done by Mt Saint Helens in Washington and other underwater lava flow in Hawaii; I'm rather optimistic at the tenacity of life. I'm sure most of that oil will be dissolved leaving what amounts to asphalt behind. Now I'm not saying this is acceptable behavior, just pointing out some perspective here.

  • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Monday February 21, 2011 @09:11PM (#35274160)
    It's not adequate to know that the layer is 4 inches thick if we don't know the area the layer covers. If it's a square mile, who cares? If it's 100 square miles, it may have some practical significance. Alarmist articles like this are irresponsible.
  • by Tetsujin (103070) on Monday February 21, 2011 @09:44PM (#35274378) Homepage Journal

    "Knocking these animals out of the food chain will, in time, affect species relevant to fisheries."

    Gotta love that.
    "Hey, turns out we've devastated the local environment!"
    "Why should I care?"
    "But whole species could die, or be pushed to the brink of extinction!"
    "Meh."
    "Well... fishermen could lose their jobs!"
    "Oh, that is a big deal! They'd better get right on that."
    "Hm, how can I put this... You'll have to pay more for fish, and Your Tax Dollars* will have to be used to solve the problem!"
    "TO ACTION!"

    (* Your Tax Dollars are not actually yours.)

    • by Nimey (114278)

      It's enough to make a Republican's head spin: HOW ABOUT THOSE JOB-KILLING OIL PLATFORMS?

  • by v1 (525388) on Monday February 21, 2011 @09:46PM (#35274398) Homepage Journal

    "That's not OUR oil, you can't prove anything. THAT oil must have come from somewhere else, our well is sealed."

  • by SkOink (212592) on Monday February 21, 2011 @11:27PM (#35275092) Homepage

    The Deepwater Horizon oil spill released over 6 times as much oil as the Valdez did. Very little of it was actually cleaned up. Of the oil which even made it to the surface, mostly BP just dumped enough dispersants down to cause the oil to sink back down to the ocean floor. Where exactly did people think it was going to go anyways?

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