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How big is the gulf oil disaster? It's too early to tell.

Michael Grunwald writes in Time that government officials and the media have exaggerated the scale of the gulf oil spill. It’s bad, he writes, but not anywhere near the greatest catastrophe the Gulf of Mexico has faced. He has a point -- lots of the oil has apparently degraded without making landfall, and nature is surprisingly resilient. Plenty of the rhetoric about the spill was overblown. But be careful not to overreact in the opposite direction. There’s still a lot we don’t know.

Grunwald compares the BP spill to the Exxon Valdez, pointing out that the latter resulted in a lot more dead wildlife. Bacteria also took a lot more time to break down oil in cold Alaskan waters, whereas in the warm gulf, they seem to be feasting on the crude.

But I think a more apt analogy is to the 1979 blowout of the Ixtoc 1 rig, also in the Gulf of Mexico. See, for example, the New York Times’s reporting on how the residual effects of that decades-old event continue to addle nearby coastal ecosystems, killing off oyster populations and stunting the growth of mangroves. Grunwald talks about how he saw sprouting in Louisiana’s oiled mangrove swamps. Perhaps the state’s flora will avoid such harm. Or perhaps lingering toxicity will have effects similar to those after Ixtoc.

Possibly much more significant, though, is the depth at which the BP spill occurred. It’s hard to quantify how much oil remains dispersed in deeper, colder waters, let alone the nature of its effects on the gulf’s ecosystem writ large -- not simply on coastal areas, on which Grunwald focuses. Oil can linger in strange, unexpected places, doing damage that isn’t quick, obvious or dramatic but is nevertheless worrying.

The long-term damage other oil spills caused took years to develop -- let alone to understand. It’s too early to become comfortable with this one.

By Stephen Stromberg  | July 29, 2010; 12:33 PM ET
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American people, there is an invasion happening on our southern border; which is the only way to explain the terrible tragedy that is taking place. There are many oil wells in the oceans’ bottom; some are capped, and others may not be capped. How would we know if they are leaking, except when there is an explosion like Deepwater Horizon that called attention to the oil well gushing oil?
For many years, the oil companies have ran our USA into ruins. Many of our politicians have stock in the oil companies, receiving large dividends each quarter. The Supreme Court has given corporations the same rights as We The People. During litigations where Exxon settled out of court, the court suppressed the health reports from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, making it impossible to sue for health compensations. Nineteen years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Supreme Court cut Exxon’s payment to the people directly affected by the oil spill.
We are being herded like cattle to our slaughter, because we believe the US Government will protect us. That is far from the truth. We have no one at our backs except each other. Wake up We The People!! We must step up and declare that crude oil is toxic, and demand that oil spill cleanup workers wear respirators. That one action could save lives. There should not be any more Collateral Damage from the oil spills; they must be made to be accountable for their criminal actions. Oil companies, the government agencies, and our government officials are lying while American people are becoming sick in the Gulf of Mexico from toxic crude oil
In 1989 Exxon told the cleanup workers the same story, that the crude oil is not toxic. Some of us are living proof of the toxic exposure, and many others have died. Please view the YouTube video, and help get the message to Gulf residents, BP crude oil cleanup workers, and President Obama.
I offer my last 21 years of health issues as proof that the crude oil is toxic, and ask You The People to stand with me and demand that respirators be used during the Gulf oil spill cleanup. Help me, save lives.

Toxic Crude Oil in Gulf

Posted by: msavage12 | July 29, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

As to the use of dispersants in the Gulf, follow the money:

Posted by: Mary51 | July 31, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Don't be misled - fooled by these people. Just because you cannot see it does not mean it has vanished!

If it is proven that larvae of blue crabs and fiddler crabs sampled from Louisiana to Pensacola are contaminated with oil and corexit dispersant, (as one expert put it) “the effect on fisheries could last for years probably not a matter of months” and affect many species.

SO we just stop eating crab and it will be OK right? Wrong!

It all comes down to understanding the food chain. The food chain is the sequence of who eats whom in a biological community (an ecosystem) to obtain nutrition.

Posted by: justmeint | August 1, 2010 1:25 AM | Report abuse

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