Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21.
The environmental damage caused by BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill may have been grossly exaggerated, a growing body of experts is suggesting. In a bold move, scientists have dismissed the torrent of grim predictions from President Obama and environmentalists as ‘hype’ with no data to back it up.
Instead, those working on the ground say the oil is breaking up far more quickly than expected and the number of birds being killed is low.
Just days after the Deepwater Horizon leak was capped two weeks ago, coastal grass began to grow back, as did trees which serve as breeding grounds for fish and other wildlife.
Coastguard Commander Thad Allen said the oil on the surface was disappearing within hours of the successful plug.
Skimmers went from catching 25,000 to 200 barrels of oil a day. Now experts point to a host of data that shows the tide is turning.
The harsh restrictions on fishing and shrimping are being lifted and the number of birds killed is just 1 per cent of those which died in the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989.
Strong coastal currents have kept the oil away from the shore and when it lands crews have been able to swiftly remove the balls of tar.
Graphic shows the extent of the oil spill around a month after the disaster.
By July 26, much of the oil has dispersed either naturally or has been skimmed from the surface.
The oil in the water is light and degradable, the Gulf of Mexico is warm, which helps to break it down, and although rescue teams have collected nearly 3,000 dead birds, fewer than half had oil covering them and some may have died from eating oil contaminated food.
Only three oiled carcasses of mammals such as dolphins have been pulled from the water.
Marine scientist Ivor van Heerden, a former Louisiana State University professor, who is working as a spill response contractor, said: ‘There’s just no data to suggest this is an environmental disaster.
‘I have no interest in making BP look good – I think they lied about the size of the spill – but we’re not seeing catastrophic impacts. There’s a lot of hype, but no evidence to justify it.’
Geochemist Jacqueline Michel added: ‘The impacts have been much, much less than everyone feared.’
Rescue teams have found 492 dead sea turtles but only 17 were visibly oiled.
However, all the experts admit the full consequences of the spill may not be known for years.
Workboats operate near the site of the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico last Friday.
They took a stand as Tony Hayward, BP’s departing chief executive, revealed he did not want to leave his post but was forced out for the good of the company.
‘I became a villain for doing the right thing,’ he told the Wall Street Journal. ‘But I understand that people find it easier to vilify an individual more than a company.
‘I didn’t want to leave BP, because I love the company. Because I love the company, I must leave BP.’
In his first interview since his departure was announced, he said he resented the daily criticism from the Obama administration but acknowledged that his gaffes, including saying that he ‘wanted his life’ back, had harmed BP’s reputation.
Via Daily Mail