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What Happened to the Oil?

Environment, National Issues, Science and Technology

Recent reports from the Coast Guard and others marvel at the fact that apparently the oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion-induced blowout has all but disappeared. They're running all over the place looking for it, mostly in vain. A miracle? Nope. Just Nature taking care of things.

The Gulf of Mexico sits atop a pile of oil. For eons, oil has leaked through fissures and vents into the waters above. The reason the Gulf is not an oil-polluted mess is a tiny organism called alcanivorax borkumensis and a few of his brothers and sisters, the popularly-named oil-eating bacteria. The Gulf is teeming with them due to the abundance of his favorite food, oil, or more accurately, alkanes. Alkanes are the family of complex hydrocarbons that make up petroleum.

Alcanivorax borkumensis is a rod-shaped bacteria that consumes oil to provide it with energy. It is quickly attracted to areas polluted by an oil spill, rapidly increasing in number to dominate. It can be found in varying numbers throughout the world's oceans. The bacteria work together as a team. Some digest the big hydrocarbon molecules of oil, generating much shorter HC chains. Others then consume these shorter chains. At the end of this collaboration, the oil has completely disappeared. Only byproduct residues of water and carbon dioxide are left.

Simply, alcanivorax, let's call him "Al" for short, consumes petroleum for energy and reproduction, leaving only CO2 and H2O, and baby bacteria, as residue.

So, that's what happened to the BP oil. As is the case throughout our Creation, or Mother Nature if you prefer, there are built-in repair and balancing mechanisms to correct dangerous disturbances of the equilibrium. Left alone, the ecosystem will repair itself, within reason. All things considered and contrary to my previous dire predictions, the BP oil spill has turned out to be little more than a boon for boom and suction equipment suppliers, but basically only a blip on the Gulf ecosystem except for the oil that washed ashore.

Just a word about certain "scientist" naysayers. A couple of university types have disagreed with the alleged disappearance of the oil, claiming it's all just hiding under the surface. I'm afraid this may be an example of what's wrong with science these days. Their statements ignore the presence and efficacy of "Al" in cleaning up the mess. I'm sure they are well familiar with the little critters, so why neglect to mention their effect in the press releases? Cynic that I am, I suspect some grant-fishing going on, perhaps hoping the government will shovel a few million bucks their way to "research the problem." *Sigh*. 

So, be at peace folks. God is in his Heaven and all is right with the world, at least the Gulf of Mexico part.

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