Day 1,825
April 20, 2015 12:31 PM   Subscribe

1,825 days after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Perrin Ireland (@experrinment) and the Natural Resources Defense Council ask: Where'd the oil go?
posted by ChuraChura (31 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Upon finishing the video, I had to sit for a few moments before I could decide whether that question—where'd the oil go?—was even answered. I think my confusion stemmed from the focus on that particular question, which implies that the oil was somewhere and then it vanished, when the actual situation is that the oil is still there in the water, slowly settling onto the ocean floor and providing heretofore unknown environmental effects.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 12:44 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


It was Raptured.
posted by localroger at 1:20 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, I think the point is that the oil did not go anywhere but is, in fact, Still There.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:29 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


hey but i saw a bunch of smiling gulf state governors in a commercial and they said everything's cool also some very upbeat guys from BP
posted by the phlegmatic king at 1:33 PM on April 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


DAT SHRIMP DOH
posted by jmccw at 2:16 PM on April 20, 2015


> Yes, I think the point is that the oil did not go anywhere but is, in fact, Still There.

Or, as I prefer, Still Here.

I can't remember who* pointed it out, but one of the convenient illusions we've maintained for a long time is that there is a "there", a place somewhere out there where we can stick things and not be affected by them ever again. We're discovering that this isn't true, and the sooner we start coming to grips that there's nothing but "here", the sooner we'll stop wrecking our planet.

*It wasn't Gertrude Stein. She said "There's no there there" — I'm just saying "There's no there".
posted by benito.strauss at 2:25 PM on April 20, 2015 [23 favorites]


Fucking Corexit. I knew that shit would be a huge disaster. "I know, we'll just reduce the particle size so all this toxic crap can get even deeper down into the food chain! What a great fucking idea!" That's not even to mention the toxicity of Corexit itself, which is apparently synergistically horrible when mixed with oil. I still don't understand how the EPA approved this whole process, given what a bad idea it seems like on its face - I'd love to read a post-mortem of WTF went wrong there if anyone knows of anything good.

To this day, I believe the dispersant was 100% about image control, which makes the additional damage even more galling. We never got a big media-blowout image that captured the damage we did, we were never confronted with all 4.9 million barrels (that's 210 million US gallons) sitting there in front of us, sickeningly coating the surface of the ocean for miles and miles, and so people assumed that everything must be OK once it got capped.

I mean, based on the images people remember, I bet most people would tell you that Exxon-Valdez was worse - but it was only around a quarter the volume of oil spilled in the BP disaster. If every drop of the Deepwater Horizon oil had come to the surface and been captured on video, maybe there would be a tiny bit more political will to end these crazy, desperate drilling practices. But instead, as soon as they finally got the goddamn thing capped (supposedly - I don't trust anyone involved as far as I could throw them), most people just completely forgot about it because BP had found a way to get the oil to sink out of view instead of surfacing and making it 100% obvious what a horrific thing we'd done. Of course, that's not to even mention the other media control that was happening at the time - no journalists allowed at bird cleaning stations, just for example.

It's hard to shake the image of us digging around for untapped veins like a heroin addict at this point, when you think about the resources we're devoting to these projects and the incredible damage they can do. Sometimes I think the only reason we keep doing it is that the people who profit from all of this are so good at hiding the consequences and true costs from us. I guess that's more reassuring than believing that people really just don't care.

What a lovely presentation though, I love the stop-motion art and they did an amazing job telling this horrifically ugly story in a beautiful way. Thanks for the post!
posted by dialetheia at 2:31 PM on April 20, 2015 [26 favorites]


What a lovely presentation though

I absolutely disagree with that. The cutesy-folksy presentation really detracted from the impact for me. Maybe if they'd gone between that and some, you know, actual pictures and/or charts that help clearly present the points they were trying to get across, it would have been much, much better.
posted by overhauser at 2:39 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


... one of the convenient illusions we've maintained for a long time is that there is a "there", a place somewhere out there where we can stick things and not be affected by them ever again.

In other words, outside the environment.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:40 PM on April 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


This story reports on the claimed discovery of the sunken oil. It says 3 to 5 percent of the original spill sank to the ocean floor. That would be around 30,000 to 40,000 cubic meters. Note that there is natural seepage of oil from around 600 fissures in the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, which amounts to between one and five million barrels per year, or 160,000 to 800,000 cubic meters. To put that in perspective, the original Deepwater Horizon spill was 780,000 cubic meters.

And, what overhauser said. That presentation makes it look like the whole Gulf is one big oil shmear because of Deepwater Horizon. It's not. Not that Deepwater Horizon is excusable, or that the danger doesn't continue to exist given the hundreds of rigs and pipelines out there.
posted by beagle at 2:43 PM on April 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


dialetheia: "To this day, I believe the dispersant was 100% about image control"

Politician's Syllogism
posted by rhizome at 2:46 PM on April 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


A probably true story about a now-infamous moron.

(relevant to the topic)
posted by Sebmojo at 3:32 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


the actual situation is that the oil is still there in the water, slowly settling onto the ocean floor and providing heretofore unknown environmental effects.

It literally never actually occurred to me it could be anywhere else but on the floor of the gulf. Were they actually suggesting it could be reduced to particles and miraculously be someplace else, like the transporter on Star Trek? I didn't follow this news story closely, because it made me ache with helplessness.

The sheer volume...
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:21 PM on April 20, 2015


one of the convenient illusions we've maintained for a long time is that there is a "there", a place somewhere out there where we can stick things and not be affected by them ever again.

I think Theodor Geisel commented on this in his 1957 work on environmental displacement:
Do you know how he did it?
WITH MOTHER'S WHITE DRESS.
Now the tub was all clean,
But her dress was a mess!
posted by sneebler at 5:30 PM on April 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Watching the live camera feed from the remote submersibles trying to fix the leak was surreal. The layers upon layers of ineptness in the response were disheartening as well.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:42 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


@beagle, the reports of BP's oil on the seafloor are being made by the cold seep experts. They would report if the oil they found was sourced from a cold seep.

Who are you going to believe, cold seep scientists or BP's PR team?

This BS about seeps causing the 'bathmat' elides a lot of information about seeps, namely that they seep, slowly, and the hydrocarbons can be incorporated into the food web.

BP's blowout moved much more material, much more quickly. much of it wasn't incorporated into bacteria. then more of it was, but it killed the bacteria that ate it, making that weird sticky, toxic sludge that U of F found a couple years ago. It's as if the sheer amount and concentration and speed of the stuff didn't allow for a lot of microbial action to happen, that would have on smaller scales and lower amounts.

dispersant also killed a lot of oil-digesting bacteria. the fallout of "marine oil snow" caused a 2 inch layer of flocculent brown stuff, not observed beforein the Gulf by the scientists that study the deepwater environments.

the marine oil snow papers weren't controversial until this year--i don't know why, but Shell and BP's reps were offended by the studies of marine snow and dispersant this year at GOMRI in Houston. It probably has to do with the fact that EPA is re-writing subpart J, and that will probably change what dispersants they are allowed to use.

But Shell and BP turned on their FUD machine a little late, i think
posted by eustatic at 6:33 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


The newspaper had an article full of dire speculation about the long-term aftermath this weekend, including the ominous "bathtub ring" of goop left by the bacteria that ate the oil and, SURPRISE! left crap behind that isn't going away either. And oceanographers assured us that we have no idea how this will affect the whole interconnected water column. All they missed was As Above So Below or vice-versa.

The thing is, the water column is going to be affected a lot more by shit happening in Greenland and Antarctica right now than it is by this. That will happen globally, not just in the Gulf, and it will happen within the lifetime of people who are around now to remember this. Maybe not me, but certainly people who are younger or healthier now.

The one really stupid thing about about the Macondo leak was using the Corexit. Nature will have to figure out how to deal with that. Might take a millennium or two. Meanwhile, taking care of oil, that's a thing the Gulf has to deal with anyway. The Macondo reservoir was down there under pressure and even if humans hadn't come along and poked a straw into it, it would have eventually found its way to the seafloor, because that's what pressurized systems do. They eventually blow, especially when they're held in place by geological crap that moves around. It has certainly happened before without our help and will certainly happen again even if humans exit stage left.

Plants and animals will die en masse, ecosystems will be disrupted, species will go extinct. New ones will evolve to take their niches. So it goes. We will probably not be here to see most of it though, because the species most at risk from all this fucking up is homo sapiens.
posted by localroger at 6:33 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


oh, hey, i made a rough map of the Hopane contours, 100 and 1660 ng g-1

based on this kriging
posted by eustatic at 6:37 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fucking Corexit...
I still don't understand how the EPA approved this whole process, given what a bad idea it seems like on its face -


Bought and paid for.

The answer to questions like this is follow the money. On the one hand, it was a sad sad thing for the oil industry that some oil was spilled. On the other, look who made money when it went down. And look who gets the inherit the mess.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:14 PM on April 20, 2015


The E/V Nautilus ROV dove to the Deepwater Horizon site yesterday, and their explorers did an AMA on what they were seeing.
posted by progosk at 9:09 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Lisa Jackson's EPA issued orders over BP's use of Corexit. then BP 'limited' its use and EPA backed down
posted by eustatic at 11:11 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


And Eric Cordes comments on microbial degradation of oil on the internet:
posted by eustatic at 11:16 PM on April 20, 2015


BP says Corexit is safe, and they are allowed to use it.
So, you all shut up.
BP wouldn't lie.

What I found interesting is that they're going back to the Ixtoc-1 spill site after 30-odd years to figure out what happens to the environment after 30 years of raw crude and Corexit just chillin'. Strikes me that might have been something they'd want to have done some serious work on at some point before this, because as far as I was able to read yesterday the oil-corexit muck is still killing the benthic species.
posted by Mezentian at 1:57 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I recently heard a former BP exec give a speech. This utter fuckknuckle used Deepwater as as example of how 'strong corporate values' helped companies weather crises. He made the claim, without a hint of irony or scintilla of doubt, that the Gulf of Mexico had been remediated to 'better than it had been before the spill'.

I wanted to leap from my chair and kick him in the throat. I wish I had.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:51 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Your fucking 'corporate values' got you into the crisis in the first place, asshole. /rage
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:53 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I recently heard a former BP exec give a speech.

I'll bet it was to an audience of industry types.

To be fair, the fault lies as much with TransOcean as it does BP.

Still, as the saying goes: million wise, billion foolish.

that the Gulf of Mexico had been remediated to 'better than it had been before the spill'.

Tell that to the oyster farmers. Or the folks in the bayou who are seeing higher levels of erosion from the spill (for some reason I can't remember).
posted by Mezentian at 3:41 AM on April 21, 2015


eustatic, I'm citing the cold seep stat only to put the volumes into some context, not to excuse it. I don't believe I indicated which scientists I believe.
posted by beagle at 5:07 AM on April 21, 2015


The higher coastal erosion is because the oil killed the mangroves, and the mangroves were holding the coastal sediments together. Combined with lack of new sediment due to channelization of the Mississippi, decay-driven subsidence, and sea level rise, and you start to lose land really fast.
posted by rockindata at 6:19 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm waiting to see this destroy the coast of North Carolina The federal government has a new proposal to allow for oil drilling up to 50 miles offshore. Our Republican governor rushed to D.C. to protest...

...that they should be allowed to drill closer than that.
posted by bitmage at 3:29 PM on April 21, 2015


My POS brother who works for the oil industry blithely parroted to me the company line, a few months after the disaster, "It's already being dissolved by environmental forces. Basically, Mother Nature cares of herself."

It should be noted that he doesn't actually know anyone who makes their living off of the marine ecology, although he does eat shrimp from time to time.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:46 PM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm waiting to see this destroy the coast of North Carolina The federal government has a new proposal to allow for oil drilling up to 50 miles offshore. Our Republican governor rushed to D.C. to protest...
...that they should be allowed to drill closer than that.


The rest of the world remains puzzled by the US rules that restrict drilling to the Gulf.
The rest of the world, generally, allows drilling everywhere offshore.
Here, you can drill from onshore to offshore targets. Most places you can plonk a jack-up anywhere it will go (presuming you don't have any seismic imaging issues) and you can drill away.

And, American companies do that in other people's backyards all the time, without a care.

And, really, a spill in shallow waters (when they do happen, which is rare) would be easier to control than in deeper waters.

Hell, you could make the argument that the Deepwater Horizon would never have drilled Macondo-1 if drilling elsewhere in the US wasn't blocked off, and the unlocking of tight reservoirs and shale formations might not have happened either, at least not for decades.

I'm not saying you should allow drilling offshore NC or wherever, just that decision A leads to outcome B, assuming you want to have oil and gas.
posted by Mezentian at 6:28 AM on April 24, 2015


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