Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oil-eating microbe?

OK, so this beastie is kind of awesome. Scientists from Lawrence Berkley, led by Terry Hazen, have located an oil-eating microbe in the Gulf of Mexico. And not only does it break down the oil twice as fast as expected, but it does so without significantly depleting oxygen in the water.

These little beasties are nothing new, we've known about them for years. And people have been suggesting that they be used for a while now.

The argument is pretty obvious. "Yeah, they deplete the oxygen, but they cause less damage than the billions of gallons of toxic dispersants that BP is pumping into the water." (Since BP is going to be fined based on how much oil got pumped into the Gulf, it's in their best interest to hide the size of the leak, even if the dispersants make the spill more toxic.)

But this is about the only good news to come out of the Gulf in months.

(It's only a matter of time before some creationist points at this microbe as evidence of "God's plan." Of course, that begs the question "If God's plan is so damned fancy, how come He made a part of His environment, called petroleum and made from those dinosaurs you claim don't exist, that poisons every other part of His environment?" This microbe seems more like an afterthought. Does God have afterthoughts? Shouldn't He have gotten it right the first time?)

Of course, we still don't know how poisonous the seafood in the Gulf is, the clean-up workers are still suffering from the effects of exposure to the dispersants (including exciting effects like rectal bleeding), and BP is still covering up the extent of the disaster.

And somebody just ask Australia what the effects of a new species introduced into an environment can be.

But at least there's something.

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