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The Doomsayers Were Wrong about the BP Oil Spill

The Doomsayers Were Wrong about the BP Oil Spill thumbnail
Mother Nature heals herself.
Five years ago this week, a blowout of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig 40 miles from the Gulf Coast tragically claimed eleven lives and spilled 3 million barrels of oil from the damaged wellhead into the Gulf. It’s hard to forget the video images of thick oil gushing, day after day, into the region’s waters. It was a horrific accident that caused substantial damage to the ecology and commerce of the region. Gulf-area wildlife, portions of the shoreline, tourism, fishers and shrimpers, and energy-sector workers suffered large losses in the aftermath of the spill. BP has paid close to $27 billion in penalties, payments to aggrieved parties, and clean-up costs, in one of the largest payouts for an accident in American history. This is enough money to hand every man, woman, boy, and girl in Chicago or Houston a $10,000 check. In addition, as the result of a court ruling last fall finding that BP was guilty of willful misconduct and gross negligence leading up to the spill, BP might have to pay another $13.7 billion in Clean Water Act penalties. But the good news on this fifth anniversary is that the lasting ecological damage from the spill that was originally feared has not happened. The dire predictions by the media and the major environmental groups proved wildly off base. Today, the Gulf region affected by the spill is enjoying a renaissance of energy production, booming tourism, and a healthy fishery sector. Scientific data and studies over the past five years show the Gulf environment is returning to its baseline condition. The remnants of the spill are hard to find. A July 2011 environmental-assessment report from the Coast Guard found that none of the dispersant constituents found in the thousands of water and sediment tests conducted exceeded the EPA’s chronic aquatic benchmarks.
Five years later, wildlife populations have proven largely resilient. For instance, commercial-fishery-landings data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that, after a drop-off in the year of the spill, catch levels bounced back in 2011 to levels not seen in eleven years, and they remain strong today. Why has the damage been contained? First, we can be thankful that the vast majority of the 3.2 million barrels of crude leaked into the Gulf dispersed naturally, evaporating into thin air or biodegrading. Microbes, which already feast on the up to 1.4 million barrels of oil that scientists estimate seep naturally into the Gulf each year, increased in number following the spill — aiding the process greatly. The‎ massive, $14 billion human clean-up response, with 100,000 personnel, 6,508 vessels, and 13.5 million feet of containment boom was unprecedented and effective. Dispersants successfully assisted natural dissolution. ‎Some of the apocalyptic estimates of damage proved to be ‎mere propaganda. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) predicted at the time that oil would enter the “loop current” and reach Florida’s Atlantic coast within a week. Synte Peacock, an NCAR scientist, warned that “the scope of this environmental disaster is likely to reach far beyond Florida.” Not to be outdone, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers breathlessly reported that “there will be tar balls all the way up the East Coast, all the way to Europe.” But the oil didn’t make it to Tampa, let alone Europe, as the requisite combination of winds and current failed to materialize. By the end of July 2010, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco admitted that, “for southern Florida, the Florida Keys, and the Eastern Seaboard, the coast remains clear.” And what of the long-term effects on the fishing and shrimping industries? The Southern Shrimp Alliance’s Jon Williams predicted the spill could last 40 years. CBS News Network’s Melanie Warner suggested that “this could mean a permanent end” to the Gulf’s seafood industry and that, “ten years from now . . . there will very likely still be seafood — shrimp, bluefin tuna, and maybe snapper and grouper — that are contaminated with BP’s oil.” Not to be outdone on the contamination concerns, CNN correspondent David Mattingly worried about the “cascading effect on the entire food chain” from the spill. And yet, less than four months after the spill stopped, the director of NOAA’s Sustainable Fisheries Science Center reported that “it appears so far that the impact on the larval population is relatively small.” Data from NOAA confirm that post-spill Gulf fish populations are robust and that commercial seafood landings have generally been consistent with pre-spill ranges. And more than 10,000 government tests show that the seafood is safe to eat. Audubon Society director Gregory Butcher warned that the spill “could be the strikeout punch” for Louisiana’s state bird, the brown pelican. And Cecilia Riley, executive director of the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, cautioned: “The disruption of the food web and lack of adequate food supplies could reduce avian productivity for several years.” But in fact, Louisiana’s brown-pelican population was still strong just a year after the spill, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The spill was predicted to have long-term negative effects on tourism as well. The managing director of Oxford Economics USA opined, “History and current trends indicate a potential $22.7 billion economic loss to the travel economies of the Gulf Coast states over the next three years.” In actuality, tourists have flocked to the Gulf every year since the spill, shattering records the summer immediately following the disaster in numerous locales, including Panama City and the Emerald Coast.
Big Green has tried to capitalize on the BP spill as the reason to block any further offshore drilling. ‎And while there are critical caution signals from the accident, what is needed most is rational offsetting of the costs against tens of billions of dollars in benefits, including hundreds of thousands of jobs, energy security, and community development. Most in the environmental movement portray the ecology of our planet as fragile and weak. But the real story of horrific accidents like the BP oil spill, and natural ecological occurrences like Hurricane Katrina, is that Mother Nature adapts — and she has awesome healing powers. The Gulf recovery has been swift and impressive and the doomsayers were wrong. ‎When something like this happens, we should heed to the sage advice of the world’s most famous lawgiver, Moses, who warned us of false prophets: “If the thing does not come about or come true#…#the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:22). Good advice, when it comes to the Green-movement prophets of doom.

19 Comments on "The Doomsayers Were Wrong about the BP Oil Spill"

  1. paulo1 on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 8:31 am 

    May BP and her lying executives burn and rot in hell. They can share misery with the banksters and corrupt politicians.

  2. Rodster on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 8:54 am 

    The doomsayers were correct with regard to Ocean acidification, dying oceans, warming oceans, fish depletion, phytoplankton die off. You can’t trust BP or any fracking company when it’s in their interest to withhold information from the public. We will probably have to wait decades later to see how the BP oil spill impacted the area.

  3. Nony on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 9:16 am 

    The BP thing was massively overplayed even in 2010. We were like a third world country extorting things from a foreign oil major.

  4. gdubya on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 9:35 am 

    There you go, all better now; go outside and play.

  5. J-Gav on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 9:56 am 

    PS – this article is BS.

  6. Bob Owens on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 9:59 am 

    If things are working out it is only because we have been “lucky”. If the California drought ends because of unexpected rainfall we will be “lucky”. But how about foresight, emergency mitigation, investment, backup plans? We don’t have any. So in the future when we are “unlucky” we will have to pay big time. Isn’t it better to plan ahead for problems?

  7. gwb on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 10:07 am 

    Another right-wing puff piece co-authored by the founder of the Club for Growth

  8. rockman on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 11:26 am 

    So I take it most here believe the federal govt and the state of La. are both offering an incorrect analysis of the current conditions in the GOM. That’s OK because we know govts do intentionally mislead the public from time to time. But I’m not sure why either govt would provide cover for BP since both are trying to skin them for as much money as possible.

    But it’s good to keep an open mind so please post any DOCUMENTED analysis of the current conditions of the marine life in the GOM that differs from the various govt agencies.

  9. Lore on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 12:11 pm 

    Right, everything is just peachy, Everything and everyone has been made whole again in just five years.

    Wetzel Wood of Orange Beach, Ala., looks out at oil fouling the Gulf of Mexico during the BP oil spill five years ago. Absorbent boom was deployed around the Gulf State Park Fishing Pier to collect the oil for cleanup.

    At the Gulf State Park Pier in Orange Beach, Ala., Wetzel Wood casts his fishing line into the rough surf of the Gulf of Mexico. He pulls his bait, a cigar minnow, through the water just beyond where the waves break for the shore.

    “On a good day you’d catch king mackerel, Spanish mackerel,” he says. Wood first learned to fish at the pier with his grandfather in 1969. “I’ve seen a lot of different things out here. It’s been wonderful.”

    But one of the worst was five years ago, when oil was spewing from BP’s out-of-control well for nearly three months. From this pier, Wood watched as mats of oil hit the Alabama coast.

    “I was kind of thinking, you know, I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to come out here and fish again. It was kind of a lonesome feeling,” he says. “Had no idea when it would come back, if it came back.”

    Wood says today, people won’t see oil, and fishing appears to be on the rebound, but it’s not as good as it once was. He still worries about the future.

    The BP oil spill dealt an unprecedented blow to Gulf wildlife five years ago, killing shorebirds, marine mammals and fish. The damage may not be as dire as initially feared. Still, researchers say it’s too soon to know what the long-term impacts might be.

    Kenneth Heck, with Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab, says fish population studies in the Gulf show one picture, but a different one emerges when researchers look at individual fish in controlled lab studies.

    Pelicans are nesting at Queen Bess Island in Barataria Bay. Five years ago, the nesting season here was marred by the oil gushing out of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

    5 Years After BP Oil Spill, Effects Linger And Recovery Is Slow

    Blue crabs brought back to Tony Goutierrez’s dock in Hopedale, La. For the past few years, his traps have been coming up empty. “It’s sad to see it go, but it’s going — this way of life is going to disappear,” he says.

    Appetite For Gulf Seafood Is Back, But The Crabs And Oysters Aren’t

    “Almost without exception those studies find negative impacts at the level of the individual organism,” he says. “However, all the studies that I know of that have been done to date at the population level, out in nature, have not found those impacts. So there’s a mismatch between what we’ve seen in the laboratory and what we’ve seen in the field.”

    BP points to those population studies as evidence of a strong recovery for a resilient Gulf, far better than the ecosystem collapse some people predicted during the spill.

    “There is not what many people had feared, a lost generation of Gulf species,” says Geoff Morrell, BP senior vice president.

    But Steve Murawski, marine scientist at the University of South Florida, says “the homework is incomplete.”

    “This is a large complex ecosystem that’s difficult to sample,” he says. “We’re talking about cryptic things we’re trying to get a handle on. We know that there’s impacts in certain areas. And some species, sure, they’re capable of rebounding and they did. But to make a blanket statement is way too premature.”

    Murawski says migrating fish with a shorter lifespan, such as Spanish mackerel, appear to be doing well. But ones that live longer and don’t move around as much, like tilefish and red snapper, show more problems like tumors and oil in their organs.

    Other studies indicate that dolphins in certain areas have suffered, and endangered sea turtle nests have declined. Murawski says more than 3 million barrels of oil is going to have an impact.

    “People need to acknowledge this was a massive oil spill,” he says. “The stuff by-and-large just doesn’t disappear. It has consequences. And so we would expect a certain level of consequence to happen in a spill of this magnitude.”

    Murawski says because the BP spill was unprecedented, there’s little historical data to provide clues about the long-term prognosis for the Gulf. And those answers will only come with time.

  10. Sugar Seam on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 12:20 pm

    nearly four years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a new study says the disaster is far from over.

    Much research remains to be done, said Dr. Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, but the science shows that wildlife still are feeling the impacts and the oil is not gone.

  11. Laci on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 12:30 pm 

    @Rockman: Environmental degradation is something that governments will naturally lie about, because it is not in their interest to admit that there is a problem and do something about it. Let us look at fracking for instance;

    Hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs were created, tens of billions in royalties, millionaire landowners from royalties and lease and an improved trade balance.

    Now, if there were to be a finding that there is an increase in toxic chemicals in the water, which will have harmful long-term effects on the population overall, but not everyone will die of cancer or other diseases as a result, perhaps just cause the shortening of life to maybe 5% of the population, do you think that the government would give up on this industry and all its short-term economic benefits? After all, governments are graded by the electorate by their short-term performance.

  12. Dredd on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 12:59 pm 

    “Nature heals herself” is the BP (Big Prick) way of saying “screw her, she is our bitch, she can heal herself for all we care.”

    I have learned to smell Big Propaganda (BP) miles away.

    Oil-Qaeda can use “BP” or any other name, but it means mass-murdering selfish pricks who are at best psychopaths.

    They have not cleaned up the Exxon-Valdex spill yet (Spill Baby Spill!, Remodelling Memory For Life’s Sake).

    Edward L. Bernays would be proud of these thug propagandists.

  13. GregT on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 1:08 pm 

    “After 25 years, Exxon Valdez oil spill hasn’t ended”

    “Twenty-five years ago on March 24, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez slammed into Bligh Reef and spilled more than 11 million gallons of crude oil into the cold, clear waters of Alaska’s Prince William Sound — one of the “last best places” on Earth. The oil charged through Prince William Sound and out into the Gulf of Alaska, damaging more than 1,300 miles of some of the most remote, wild shoreline in this country.”

    “This happened 25 years ago, so we might note the anniversary as we do any other historical event. That, however, would imply that the oil spill is over. It’s not, and likely never will be.”

    “The sound’s coastal ecosystem is permanently damaged. Thousands of gallons of Exxon Valdez oil still pollute the beaches; this oil is still toxic and still hurting the ecosystem near the shore.”

    “Persistent oil poisoning, and a cascade of ecological effects, continue. There’s not much we can do now for Prince William Sound, short of protecting it from more harm. But we can keep from repeating our mistakes elsewhere. This is, after all, why we pay attention to history.”

    “Unfortunately, we still haven’t learned the biggest lesson of all from the Exxon Valdez oil spill: The only real solution is to stop using so much oil.

    “Whether it’s Prince William Sound or the Gulf of Mexico, seldom is more than 10% of the spilled oil recovered. This will be especially true in Arctic waters. And regardless of how safe we make oil drilling, tankers, or pipelines, we’ll never reduce spill risk to zero.”

    “But the larger reason to reduce our dependence on oil is this: Even if we as a society don’t care about oil spills destroying natural environments, we’ve got to care — eventually we will all care — about how burning this oil is destroying our environment through climate change.”

  14. apneaman on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 1:33 pm 

    rockman says “…so please post any DOCUMENTED analysis …”

    Why should anyone take you up rockman? You gave me the same challenge last week about the oil industry fucking up peoples lives in Texas and I met it in spades and never heard back from you. You just crawled back into your comfortable mental hiding hole like you always do whenever anyone presents you with any DOCUMENTED evidence of the misdeeds of your beloved oil industry. Just stick to your counting barrels old man that way you won’t make such a fool of yourself continually attempting to defend the indefensible. Or just say you don’t give a shit. Or you could just own up to the part you have played and admitted that you felt trapped by circumstance in a colossus of a system and don’t know what else to do – like most people. Or you could walk away and lose your status, friends, etc. Anything but your ceaseless apologizing for an industry that we all know is ruthless.

  15. ffkling on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 4:30 pm 

    Note the source for the article and that says everything one needs to know (i.e. file 13).

  16. Apneaman on Sat, 25th Apr 2015 5:33 pm 

    BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, 5 years later
    Louisiana residents say effects of massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill still being felt

  17. Mark Wallek on Sun, 26th Apr 2015 9:30 am 

    It’s all back to normal now, like nothing ever happened. Nature heals itself, you know, just like in Alaska. Time for a new round of bonuses at BP.

  18. rockman on Sun, 26th Apr 2015 3:40 pm 

    ap – Sorry that I missed your post. Send to me privately and I’ll respond in public. And no: I’ve seen nothing of the oil industry f*cking up peoples lives as you described.

    Lore – A very good rehash of the terrible conditions 5 YEARS AGO. Now point to current studies (and not just one crabber pissing and moaning) of the current conditions that differ from the govt’s evaluation.

    And yes: govts do lie on occasion. So now point to the proof that those goat agencies are misrepresenting the current conditions in the GOM.

    Yes: as I said in my post the BP spill was a nightmare…5 years ago. But that’s not the subject of this article. It’s about the current condition of the recovery of the GOM. IOW is everyone here arguing the GOM is in the same pitiful condition it was in 5 years ago?

    Now back to my original request: provide DOCUMENTATION that the GOM hasn’t seen significant recovery as described by the various agencies.

  19. daddio7 on Tue, 28th Apr 2015 7:10 am 

    You see disaster, I see great opportunity. That massive amount of oil gushed out in less than three months. Imagine that much oil filling a pipeline for a year. Four hundred wells like that would supply 100% of our oil needs. No fracking, no funding Middle East terrorist.

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