Amid news reports that wonder where all the oil went stands another article.
This one shows that the so-called environmental disaster of Biblical proportions is actually not, and the areas hardest hit are already recovered, or recovering:
Strolling along the beach for an hour, I found just one, pea-sized tar-ball which crumbled to nothing between my fingers.
When, as a young boy, I played on Morecambe beach in Lancashire, worse things often washed up from the nearby ICI refinery.
Moreover, if the U.S. TV news crews had returned just three days after their original visit, they would have seen that the black morass had already been removed by some of the 20,000 clean-up workers hired by BP.
The workers are still there – only now they are using toothbrushes to sift out even the tiniest particles of oil.
But, of course, after a ‘catastrophic’ oil spill, a spotless beach doesn’t make dramatic viewing and who wants to know?
The beaches are still empty though. The story of the recovery is not being told, and the news’ “If it bleeds, it leads” attitude is hurting local businesses.
It’s not just the beaches that are recovering, either. The plants and animals are making a comeback:
On Bird Island, we passed hundreds of pelicans nestling unsullied in the mangrove thickets. Then later we spotted pods of dolphins at play, redfish and the fin of a blacktip shark.
Surely these species wouldn’t have been so plentiful in a sick or dying environment? Although parts of the shoreline were stained with what David Culpepper termed a ‘bathtub ring’ of oil residue, new green shoots were already sprouting through, indicating that their roots were undamaged.
And at the day’s end, the team concurred that almost all the area they surveyed had improved or at least remained in the same condition in which it was found when last inspected a few weeks ago.
Professor Ivan van Heerden is right. He told Time magazine, “There is just no data to suggest this is an environmental disaster – although BP lied about the size of the oil spill, we’re not seeing catastrophic impacts.”
According to Dr Ed Owens, the veteran British oil spill expert who runs the SCAT teams, there are several reasons why the Gulf appears to have escaped so incredibly lightly.
First, the type of light oil that leaked here dissipates far more quickly than the medium crude that pumped from the Exxon Valdez, particularly in these warm waters.
Second, powerful currents from the enormous Mississippi Delta swept much of the oil away from the shore. In addition, there is the undeniable success of the clean-up effort, which is far more sophisticated and effective than those used to tackle previous disasters.
The combined result of these factors is clear from the statistics. Although more than 9,000 miles of shoreline lies within reach of the Deepwater Horizon rig, just 369 miles have been oiled – and only 53 of them with what are classed as ‘heavy’ deposits.
Compare this with the Exxon when, though the spill was 20 times smaller, the oil was so persistent and spread so widely that more than 2,000 miles of coastline were hit – and even today lumps of tar are occasionally found trapped between the rocks.
So, in Barack Obama’s words, which of these two terrible spills was ‘the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced’?