What Are We Dumping Into the Gulf to ‘Fix’ the Oil Spill?


Remember all those old Sci-Fi movies where any and all problems can be fixed with nuclear weapons? Whether it’s a rogue asteroid to head off, a molten core to restart, a dying sun to reignite, or a race of super-smart apes who have overrun the earth, there’s no problem nukes can’t solve. Sometimes it feels like we’re living in a terrible sci-fi movie – like when BP’s proposed solution to containing its recent massive oil spill is to push the oil to the bottom of the ocean by spraying it with chemical dispersants. That’s the kind of plan that can only come from a madman living inside of a hollowed-out volcano.

In addition to the indignity of oil oozing into its depths at a rate of at least 5,000 barrels per day, the Gulf of Mexico is now enduring a heavy rain of mystery chemicals.

BP and the U.S. Coast Guard are dumping large amounts of “dispersants” both on the surface and underwater, in a desperate attempt to control the ongoing spill. Dispersants are surfactants, not unlike what you use on your dishes, that break oil down into small droplets that sink into the water.

How much are they dumping? Lots. According to ProPublica, “BP has already bought up more than a third of the world’s supply” of dispersants. On Thursday alone, ProPublica reports, emergency workers dropped 100,000 gallons of the stuff into the Gulf.

And what precisely are they dumping? That’s where the mystery comes in. “The exact makeup of the dispersants is kept secret under competitive trade laws,” Propublica reports.

Continue reading the full story over on Grist.

Editor’s note: Article by Tom Philpott. Originally published by our friends at Grist.org. Grist is a media organization that has been dishing out environmental news and commentary with a humorous twist since 1999. Be sure to visit them and say hi, and follow Grist on Twitter, too!


Image: saagar yadav