Plume study author: “Oil-gobbling properties of the microbes have been GROSSLY OVERSTATED”

Oil-eating microbes may not be all they’re cracked up to be, Yahoo (Upshot Blog), September 17, 2010:

Remember the mighty oil-eating microbes… hailed as a major natural weapon in combating the Gulf oil disaster?

Well, the recent discovery of thick layers of oil on the Gulf floor, in addition to the detection of massive underwater oil plumes, aroused some suspicion that the work of the Gulf microbes had been a bit overhyped.

Now a new study finds that the microbes may have mainly consumed gases seeping from BP’s busted well, as opposed to the actual oil that leaked into the Gulf.

As the Los Angeles Times’ Eryn Brown reports, a study… finds that “bacteria… mainly digested natural gas… rather than oil.” The paper’s lead author — David L. Valentine, a professor of microbial geochemistry at UC Santa Barbara — told Brown that the oil-gobbling properties of the microbes have been grossly overstated.

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