THE WILL POWER REPORT: WHY USE OF CHEMICAL DISPERSANTS IS A BAD IDEA

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Nothing but the Truth!

 

By Will Power

 

May 28, 2010 (San Diego) -- The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a tragedy, but the British Petroleum response could be Armageddon for the Gulf of Mexico. Oil is toxic enough, but the tons of chemical dispersants can be five times worse.

 

The chemicals may make cosmetic changes in the oil plume, but actually they make the oil plume less viscous and more able to penetrate into marshes and wetlands. Wetlands are practically all that keep hurricanes from sinking New Orleans permanently. Wetlands were shrinking before the oil spill, and the effect on the buffer that protects the Mississippi delta is totally unknown. Suffice it to say that if 30% of the vegetation in Louisiana's marshes is killed, the next big storm may make Katrina look like a cakewalk.

 

Here's some data:

 

Oil is toxic at 11 ppm while Corexit 9500 is toxic at only 2.61 ppm; Corexit 9500 is four times as toxic as the oil itself. Sure, a lot less of it is being introduced, but that’s still a flawed logical perspective, because it’s not a “lesser of two evils” scenario. BOTH are going into the ocean water.

 

Dispersal of the oil does not eliminate it, nor does it decrease the toxicity of the oil. It just breaks it up into small particles, where it becomes less visible. It’s still there, spewing toxicity at an even greater rate (due to higher surface area.) But now it’s pretty much impossible to skim or trap or vacuum or even soak up at the shoreline, because most of it will never make it to the shoreline. Instead, that toxic crude oil AND the dispersant will be spread all over the ocean’s waters. This is why introducing such a product into the crude oil as it comes out from the pipe is a very bad idea for the ocean.

 

It may not be pretty, but if the oil makes it to the shore, it can be soaked up, cleaned up. To “disperse” it means it will NEVER be cleaned up. It will just stay out there, polluting and poisoning the ocean, her inhabitants, and all the food we take from it. It’s unwise to be using Corexit 9500 at all, but introducing it to the oil as it leaves the broken pipe is approaching madness. Mr. Gebhardt agrees that the oil should be contained, and what has been leaked should be allowed to come to shore where it can be removed from the ocean by less toxic means.
 

BP’s use of Corexit 9500 on the oil before it rises to the surface seems to be a deliberate attempt to mask the poison, to cover up that it continues to flow out from the ocean’s floor, while making it impossible to recover. In short, BP and Exxon want to spread the toxic oil throughout the oceans of the world, pollute everywhere, rather than allow it to be seen coming to shore where BP would have to pay for its containment and clean-up. It’s our job to keep them from getting away with sweeping this ugly mess under the surface.

 

British Petroleum has made a deliberate effort to sweep the oil under the rug, hoping nobody peers below the surface of the sea. That's why the Press and Oceanographers have been banned from the scene of the crime. Let's not kid ourselves. British Petroleum will be forced into bankruptcy if they pay the full value of the damage done. But the US consumer will end up paying in higher gas prices or in taxes in the long run.

Will Power is a retired history professor and creative writing teacher.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of East County Magazine. If you wish to submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org.
 


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