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09.23 MARYLAND GOVERNOR REBUFFS CALL FOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO BRETT KAVANAUGH ATTEMPTED RAPE ALLEGATIONS [Republicans above the law...]
09.19 'Killing a generation': one million more children at risk from famine in Yemen [Does America's government have empathy? Does it understand the concept of morality? The Saudi Air Force would be ineffective without U.S. military assistance...]
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09.18 Racist rioting in Chemnitz has reopened Germany’s east-west split [After 10,000 generations, we are all mixed-race. So let's become friends with our cousins instead!]
SCIENCE, HEALTH & BUSINESS:
Federal Gulf Oil Report: A Flawed Abuse of Science - Gulf Crisis is Not Over
Previous studies have warned that the combination of oil and dispersants is more toxic than oil on its own, because the chemicals break down cell walls, making organisms more susceptible to oil.
The federal government's National Incident Command has released it's report on the gulf oil spill “BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Budget: What Happened To the Oil?” The main message of this report – and certainly the main spin it has been given in statements by government spokespeople and the major media is - “it's all but over, we've accounted for most of the oil, most of it's gone and what's left is disappearing fast”.
But the report's conclusions are at best premature, based in many respects on guesswork, and evidence that didn't fit its conclusions was suppressed. The conclusions drawn from the report and being pushed out broadly to the public are wrong. Leaving aside the dangerous implications this report may lead to in terms of governmental policy, this report is itself an attack on and abuse of science.
Here is the report's key summary finding:
There is so much wrong with this report and how it is being used that it would take pages to describe. A New York Times article from August 4 describes some initial response from scientists who have done research in the gulf for years:
There is nothing wrong with modeling per se but there is something very wrong about modeling using wild guesses for inputs and using that to draw premature unfounded conclusions.
Even Edward Overton, an emeritus LSU gulf researcher who is listed as one of the scientists consulted in preparation of the report, while generally supporting the report, was reported to have “expressed concern, however, that dispersed oil in the deep ocean might not break down quickly.”
Oil plumes are “disappeared” from the findings
For weeks after the Deepwater Horizon accident both BP and NOAA director Jane Lubchenco, echoing BP's CEO, denied that there were any oil plumes beneath the surface. When researchers reported clear evidence of the massive plumes, she called their findings only “anomalies” that might or might not be oil which might or might not be from the BP disaster. Only later on June 8, in the face of overwhelming evidence, Lubchenco reversed her stance conceding “The bottom line is that yes, there is oil in the water column, it’s at very low concentrations...” (Lubchenco joint press conference with Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, June 8, 2010) partial timeline of NOAA stonewalling on undersea plumes...
The report continues to seriously downplay both the existence of the underwater plumes and the continued dangers posed by their aftermath, stating only:
And in the report's description of the 26% of the oil not yet accounted for, the deepwater plumes are omitted. Here is the description:
What About the Effects of the dispersant Corexit?
The federal report tries to whitewash and downplay this critical issue too. Here is what it says:
“EPA and NOAA have carefully monitored BP's use of dispersant”. But evidence is emerging that they did nothing of the sort, ultimately allowing at least 2 million gallons of this highly toxic chemical to be used.
Ron Kendall, a toxicologist from Texas Tech was reported to have testified to congress that "The bottom line is that a lot of oil is still at sea dispersed in the water column," said Ron Kendall. "It's a big ecological question as to how this will ultimately unfold." Previous studies, including a 400-page study by the National Academy of Sciences, have warned that the combination of oil and dispersants is more toxic than oil on its own, because the chemicals break down cell walls, making organisms more susceptible to oil. from Guardian UK August 3, 2010...
The Obama Administration and Media further distort the message
We close with two points:
First: even if you take the new government figures for real (which we don't, by a long shot), there is still way more oil in the gulf now (after over 100 days of oil in the Gulf) than there was in Alaska after the Exxon Valdez spill - and that spill basically caused major portions of the ecosystem to collapse, in some cases years later. It's true that this disaster is different from the Exxon Valdez spill in many ways. But the key point is that what is needed urgently is fully transparent release of all findings (including from BP and all government agencies) and much more research, not rosy reports that obscure the truth.
And finally: a much more scientific assessment of where things stand with the gulf oil spill, this from University of Georgia investigator Samantha Joye. She has spent more than 15 years doing research in the gulf with her team and they were among those who found and measured the massive undersea oil plumes:
We welcome more comments. Email us your comments.
In the United States today science, as science, is under attack as never before, mostly from uninformed evangelical organizations. Defend Science is an activist group to defend against illogical suppression of scientific research.
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This story was published on September 16, 2010.