Wednesday, May 26, 2010
If Corexit is so bad, why is BP using it as a dispersant in the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf
Okay, I suppose "spill" isn't the right word, given that the well head continues to gush oil. Maybe leak. I've heard some say "volcano." In any case, they first have to stop the oil from flowing. But while crews are working on what I think is now Plan F or G (or perhaps U or V), other crews are dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of dispersant into the Gulf. Word is that they will reach a million gallons shortly, with much of it being sprayed on the surface and at least 100,000 gallons injected a mile deep underwater at the well head.
But the EPA and NGOs are concerned that the dispersant of choice, Corexit, is both less effective and more toxic to aquatic life than alternatives. So why choose that one instead of something else?
In large part it is because they have lots of it on hand. And they don't have lots of whatever might be used to replace it. Even White House energy advisor, and former EPA Administrator, Carol Browner has acknowledged that "there are not as many being manufactured as people thought in the quantities" needed.
Which raises two questions. First, shouldn't this remind us that there are significant dangers to an oil-based economy, both economically and environmentally (not to mention from a national security standpoint)? And second, shouldn't companies and agencies ensure that they have on hand adequate supplies of emergency response gear and chemicals? As oil exploration goes into deeper and deeper waters the risks of catastrophic failures such as the Deepwater Horizon are likely to become more frequent.
And the dispersants don't actually get rid of the oil, just disperse it. Which means make it into smaller droplets that in theory can either degrade quicker or dilute out in a wider area. Unfortunately, these droplets actually make the oil more bioavailable to aquatic organisms. Not to mention the impact on the fishing, shellfishing, beaching, and tourist industries of the Gulf region, in particular Louisiana.
And did I mention that hurricane season is just beginning?