Gulf Coast Oil’s Disappearing Act Comes to an End

Giving the lie to claims that the oil had “disappeared,” Greenpeace scientists went out sampling and found oil as far away as 300 miles from the spill site.

Offshore oil rig


Remember all that talk a while back about how the oil from the broken BP well had magically disappeared? “The vast majority of the oil is gone,” Obama’s climate czar Carol Browner had said. Well, like in any decent magic act, what disappeared has now reappeared. Greenpeace scientists spent 10 days sampling areas around the Deepwater Horizon site and reported that they found oil as deep as 3,200 feet beneath the surface, and as a far as 300 miles away from the site.

Though the oil has obviously spread and dispersed, it has not entirely dissolved or been rendered harmless. The Greenpeace scientists tested oxygen levels in the water and found them to be apparently altered by the presence of oil. They also dredged sediment from the ocean floor, and found samples that reeked of oil. “Despite everything that BP and the government would like us to think, the truth is, the oil spill’s impact is not over,” Greenpeace’s Kert Davies, according to AFP.

The news comes just as Chevron has been given a permit for the first deepwater drilling project in U.K. waters since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Though the U.S. has issued a moratorium on new drilling projects, Britain has decided such measures aren’t necessary. Greenpeace had attempted to halt the project, but recently lost a battle in court. The U.K. says it’s dedicated to the idea of a low-carbon economy in the long run. “In the meantime we will be dependent on oil and gas,” the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change said in a statement. “So it is a choice between producing oil and gas here in U.K. waters, where we have one of the most robust safety and regulatory regimes in the world, with all the economic benefits that will bring, or paying to import oil and gas.”

All in all, then, it was a day of more appearances than disappearances for oil.


About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.