One thing President Obama didn’t mention in his State of the Union address was the BP oil spill, which dominated headlines for much of last summer. (SmartPower launched My Gulf Action to educate consumers about the connection between their energy use and America’s dependence on fossil fuels.)
Now, scientists have are beginning to understand the effects of chemical dispersant that was used to combat the spill:
Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts found circumstantial evidence that the chemicals guided some oil into underwater currents, stopping it from bubbling up to the surface, where it would do more damage, said marine chemist Elizabeth Kujawinski.
That would be considered a good thing, keeping marshes and beaches from getting more tarred, Kujawinski said. But she added, “the dispersant is sticking around,” which is worrisome.
The chemicals didn’t seem to biodegrade the oil and gas as fast as basic chemistry would predict. Her study said the key chemicals in dispersants underwent “negligible or slow rates of biodegradation.” Other studies have found that the oil – not the dispersant – broke apart quickly.