‘Magic’ microbes consumed maybe 10 percent of the oil — Scientists unsure “why this stuff doesn’t seem to be degrading”


Many months later Gulf of Mexico bottom shows little sign of recovery, but many dead creatures, Associated Press, February 19, 2011:

"There's some sort of a bottleneck we have yet to identify for why this stuff doesn't seem to be degrading," [marine scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia] told the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Washington. Her research and those of her colleagues contrasts with other studies that show a more optimistic outlook about the health of the gulf, saying microbes did great work munching the oil.

"Magic microbes consumed maybe 10 percent of the total discharge, the rest of it we don't know," Joye said, later adding: "there's a lot of it out there."

The head of the agency in charge of the health of the Gulf said Saturday that she thought that "most of the oil is gone." And a Department of Energy scientist, doing research with a grant from BP from before the spill, said his examination of oil plumes in the water column show that microbes have done a "fairly fast" job of eating the oil. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab scientist Terry Hazen said his research differs from Joye's because they looked at different places at different times.

Hazen stated this in August about his BP-funded research: "We’ve gone out to the sites and we don’t find any oil but we do find the bacteria." Who to believe? The AP continues:

Joye's research was more widespread, but has been slower in being published in scientific literature.

In five different expeditions, the last one in December, Joye and colleagues took 250 cores of the sea floor and travelled across 2,600 square miles. Some of the locations she had been studying before the oil spill on April 20 and said there was a noticeable change. Much of the oil she found on the sea floor — and in the water column — was chemically fingerprinted, proving it comes from the BP spill. Joye is still waiting for results to show other oil samples she tested are from BP's Macondo well.

More on Terry Hazen:

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