Gulf Oil Spill More a Man-Caused Economic than Environmental Disaster

Last April, an environmental disaster occurred that remained in the headlines for months.  With each day, a new estimate seemed to be offered regarding the impact this event would have upon the Gulf region.  You recall that event, don't you?  It was the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the resulting oil spill.  Now, a mere nine months later, consider the actual extent of the environmental and economic damage versus what was expected or warned of at the time the rig exploded.

In a study released earlier this month, a team of scientists stated that the natural gas released by the oil spill had almost completely disappeared.  According to the study, tiny deep-water microbes have consumed the natural gas, methane, and other oil constituents released by the oil spill.  The study estimated that 0.01% (one ten-thousandth) of the methane released from the accident actually remained in the ocean.  It appears that the explosion and seepage of oil provided a feast for the microbes in the Gulf.

Not only did these bacteria enjoy the feast, but they consumed the methane gas rather quickly.  By September, according to the study, only five months after the initial oil rig explosion, the methane was practically gone.

At first glance, these may be surprising figures, what with the "sky is falling" rhetoric that came from government officials and so-called experts.  Consider a couple of the end-of-the-world quotes that were so typical of liberals during the time of the spill.

Mr. Louis Miller of the Mississippi Sierra Club: "This is going to destroy the Mississippi and the Gulf Coast as we know it."

Mr. Richard Charter of the Defenders of Wildlife: "You're looking at a long-term poisoning of the area.  Ultimately, this will have a multidecade impact."

Let's not forget that natural gas, methane, and oil are naturally occurring substances on earth.  It should not come as a surprise that the God-created world has a solution to the problem.  With all the volcanic activity and other natural disasters, along with the corresponding ways the earth always seems to adapt, it's natural that these little microbes exist and did the trick in the Gulf.

Not only did these microbes consume the natural gas and methane, but they also have reduced the actual oil in the Gulf.  According to a federal study in November, 13% of the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil were consumed by the microbes.  Again, that is just seven months after the oil rig exploded and five months from the time the well was capped.

Time Magazine seemed to marvel at the resilience of the Gulf region in a recent piece in which the following was written:

The vast majority of the oil and other hydrocarbons seem to be gone, less than six months after the crude stopped flowing. And the biggest heroes of the cleanup turned out to be not the thousands of workers who scoured oil from the beaches or the shrimp-boat captains who turned their vessels into oil skimmers. They were actually the microscopic bacteria in the Gulf that digested much of the hydrocarbons while they were still deep under the surface.

Estimates vary as to how much oil remains in the Gulf following the spill.  In addition to the actual spill that occurred nine months ago, there is other oil seepage that occurs in the Gulf.  Therefore, making a determination of how much oil remains on the sea floor from the Deepwater Horizon spill versus the other seepages in the Gulf is a challenging endeavor.

Regardless of the exact amount of oil that remains on the sea floor, the environmental damage caused by the oil spill is far less than what was being predicted by the so-called experts during the time in which the oil was gushing.  But it was the environmental Armageddon talk that drove many tourists from the Gulf region and ultimately caused an untold amount of economic damage to the area.

An early study conducted by Oxford Economics put the economic cost to the Gulf region from tourism alone at $14.2 billion to $22.7 billion.  How many jobs were lost at restaurants and small mom-and-pop stores closed due to the lack of tourists visiting the Florida Panhandle, Gulf Shores, Alabama, and other areas along the coastline?  So many of these could have no doubt been saved had individuals of authority and perceived experts considered the impact that their statements might have upon others.

Perhaps there was no greater knee-jerk reaction to the oil spill than that of President Obama's oil drilling moratorium.  A federal study determined that the shortsighted moratorium cost 23,000 jobs.  Instead of issuing a moratorium that the Obama administration itself recognized would costs jobs at a time of economic weakness, it could have simply demanded additional inspections of all deep-water oil rigs.  That would have resulted in more hours worked and no jobs lost.

Another study released in July 2010 by Louisiana State University professor Joseph Mason stated that the moratorium would cost the region some $500 million in lost wages in just the first six months following. 

Furthermore, with the announcement in early December from the Obama administration that it would not allow new drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least seven years, an enormous amount of potential revenue and jobs has been lost in the Gulf region.

The great lesson in all this is that the extremist environmentalists have once again underestimated the complexity and vigilance of the earth of which they are so enamored and at a great cost to Americans.  And we saw the lemming-like mainstream media fixated with the environmentalists' dire prophecies, which, considering their track record, naturally did not come to fruition.    

The God-created earth is bigger than what mankind can throw at it.  It was designed with mankind's many flaws in mind.  The earth has adapted and will adapt to the many disasters, whether man-made or natural, that it experiences.  But the leftist environmentalists among us seem to never learn.  Unfortunately, their failure to learn resulted in numerous lost jobs and unnecessary economic weakness in the Gulf region.

Chad Stafko is a writer and political consultant living in the Midwest.
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