Biology Earth

Can Microbes Save Beaches from Oil Spills and Clean Up the Oceans?

Years ago there was a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (also referred to as the BP oil spill, oil leak, or oil disaster; the Gulf of Mexico oil spill; and the Macondo blowout) is an industrial disaster that began on April 20, 2010. … In July 2015, BP agreed to pay $18.7 billion in fines, the largest corporate settlement in United States history.

… The spill area hosts 8,332 species, including more than 1,270 fish, 604 polychaetes, 218 birds, 1,456 mollusks, 1,503 crustaceans, 4 sea turtles and 29 marine mammals.

… On 15 April 2014, BP claimed that cleanup along the coast was substantially complete, but the United States Coast Guard responded by stating that a lot of work remained. …

To date BP’s cost for the clean-up, environmental and economic damages and penalties has reached $54 billion. (Wikipedia)

https://truestrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/346917.jpg

One idea from April 30, 2010, was to use microbes to clean up the oil.

At this point it’s unclear how much of an environmental threat oil spreading from the BP spill will cause, but the federal government is mobilizing thousands of workers to prepare for the worst. They have a potential ally: microbes that have evolved an ability to break down oil that seeps from the ocean bottom. It gets devoured by a variety of bacteria, which eat it by chemically transforming its compounds into useful cellular constituents. “If it wasn’t for the natural ability of bacteria to eat oil we would all be knee-deep in the stuff,” says bioremediation expert Ken Lee of the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Nova Scotia, Canada.

So could bugs help cleanse the gulf? A number of companies have tried to create bacteria that could break down oil on demand, but Lee and colleague Albert Venosa of the Environmental Protection Agency say that experiments have shown that novel bacteria, even if they show promise in the lab, cannot compete with bacteria already living on beaches and marshes. Experiments have shown that adding nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to the beaches can speed up the ability of natural bacteria to break down oil. “What would’ve taken 5 or 6 years to accomplish can occur in a single summer,” says Lee.

While adding such fertilizers has worked in small scale coastal experiments in which oil was purposefully spread on wetlands, experts don’t know of examples from an actual spill. The challenge with wetland marshes is that the toxicity of the oil can kill plants before the microbes have a chance to get to work on the oil. “If that happens, you can lose the whole marsh,” Lee says. …

via Can Microbes Save the Gulf Beaches? The Challenges Are Myriad

Here we are in the year 2019, it work? How did the microbes do at cleaning up the oil? Quite well, they ate a lot!

Like cars, some microbes use oil as fuel. Such microorganisms are a big reason why BP’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was not far worse.

“The microbes did a spectacular job of eating a lot of the natural gas,” says biogeochemist Chris Reddy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The relatively small hydrocarbon molecules in natural gas are the easiest for microorganisms to eat. “The rate and capacity is a mind-boggling testament to microbes,” he adds.

As Reddy suggests, the microbes got help from the nature of the oil spilled—so-called Louisiana light, sweet crude mixed with natural gas, as opposed to bitumen or other heavy, gunky oils. “It’s a whole lot easier to degrade,” says Christopher D’Elia, a biologist at Louisiana State University and dean of the School of the Coast and Environment. “The bacteria had something that was more tractable.”

More than 150 different molecules make up the toxic stew of hydrocarbons that spewed from BP’s Macondo well on the Gulf of Mexico seafloor. The microbes chewed through the smaller, dispersed hydrocarbons (and the dispersants themselves) relatively quickly, helped by the fact that these molecules can dissolve in water. “I give them a 7 out of 10,” says biogeochemist David Valentine of the University of California, Santa Barbara, of the microbes’ performance eating the oil spill.

(Read more SciAm)

Nevertheless, they left a lot to be cleaned up in other ways.

… even the ravenous microbes could not clean it all—and much of what they consumed (natural gas components like methane, ethane, butane, propane and pentane) does not legally count as part of the oil spill. Plus, plenty of tarlike hydrocarbons—which are far too big for microbes to chew up—spilled, too.

… Even the smaller molecules cannot be consumed if there are not enough nutrients in the water as well, like nitrogen or phosphorus. “Nutrients regulated biodegradation,” Joye says. “That could be why so much oil sedimented out, they degraded as much as they could.” In fact, the microbes may have been hampered not only by limited nutrients because the microbial population boom may have meant an accompanying boom in their predators or in the various viruses that can infect these spill-eaters. Moreover, one of the biggest requirements for these microbes to eat hydrocarbons—oxygen—is not present at all in the sediments of the deep or the muck of Louisiana marshes. That is why oil from the Macondo well persists in those places five years later—and perhaps for eons to come. (Source)

I have daydreams of aliens visiting the Earth and cleaning it up in one big “whoosh,” removing all of the man-made damage from the beginning of the industrial revolution. We probably have to become our own miracle, however. The point of this article is that it will take more than one tool, and we have to be a lot more careful. Killing our oceans will not bode well for the human race.

Luckily there are many ways we can help. One I read recently was that just playing back the sounds of shrimp and other fish from loudspeakers hidden in dead corals attracted fish to those corals and helped to start to rebuild them. Let’s keep working on new ways to bring back the huge web of life on earth which we are only beginning as a species to realize that we need.

https://TrueStrangeNews.com

 

 

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Ann
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Ann

Thank you for your comment. I “100%” enjoyed it, but I can’t say I agree near as much. I previously cited a source, which is not an emotional rant, but careful research, and your reply was “As far as the Big 6 controlling 62% of the US retail market, this simply isn‚Äôt true either …” As far as I know, you might just be talking from the hip, as it were. Opinions are fine, but they don’t mean compared to an investigation. When I tell that I know people like you and me who pay in other countries less for… Read more »

Lenny Vasbinder
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Lenny Vasbinder

P-1 & 2 – Well, if retailers make agreements with certain distributors, that is their right as the business owner… just like it’s your right to make agreements with your bank, credit card companies, landlord, insurance company, etc. There will always be new startups or other companies with more competitive business plans who will come in and start up and either have a better product or lower price to draw customers away from the existing stores. At one time, McDonalds and Burger King had the fast food hamburger market pretty well locked up, then along came Wendy’s, Rally’s, Jack-in-the-Box, etc.… Read more »

Ann
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Ann

Lenny, this I know for a fact, having very close ties with gas station owners (several years ago). Gas prices are NOT controlled by retailers, not any more. In the past competitors would try to out-sell the competition by lowering prices. And, real competition began – gas price wars were really and truly competitive, real capitalism, all for the benefit of the customer (well they’re usually the ones who ended up benefiting the most). You might read about one or other selling at a low price, today, to get an edge on the market, because it will hit the news,… Read more »

Lenny Vasbinder
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Lenny Vasbinder

I explained in my earlier reply, a moment ago, that “gasoline price wars” are usually determined by the local gas stations, not by the BIG 6. Industry consolidation happens for various reasons, usually due to bad economic times within that industry. Most of the BIG OIL companies that merged did so when times were very tough for them so they consolidated their resources, laid off thousands of employees to get lean and mean again and now they’re enjoying record profits, while still having the same profit margin of only a few pennies per gallon of gasoline. I can only hope… Read more »

Lenny Vasbinder
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Lenny Vasbinder

Once again, it’s not an oligopy since there are hundreds, if not thousands of oil producing companies, either IOC’s or NOC’s. As far as the Big 6 controlling 62% of the US retail market, this simply isn’t true either… since the overwhelming majority of the actual gas stations are independently owned and/or franchises and they actually set the retail price based on their own local market conditions. When I was in my early 20’s I managed a local gas station / convenience store and I would drive around every morning and late afternoon checking the competitions prices and go up… Read more »

Ann
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Ann

Hey, Lenny Vasbinder, I forgot, as usual, to cite my source:

Market Domination!: The Impact of Industry Consolidation on Competition, Innovation, and Consumer Choice, Praeger, 2007, by Stephen G. Hannaford

It’s a good reference read. The author has his own website. It shows how competition is less now than before.

Seen any “gasoline price wars” lately?

Ann
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Ann

You’re right it’s not about monopoly. My mistake. It’s about oligopoly.

BP, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, Royal Dutch Shell, and ConocoPhillips control 62% of the US retail gasoline market.

They control control 50% of the refinery capacity in the US, and 48% of the oil production.

But, you’re right again: they control only 14% of worldwide oil production. This is because of the domination of national oil companies in OPEC and elsewhere.

But, whatever happens to U.S. oil prices, I’ll bet they’ll stay low in Venezuela, where it’s nationalized.

Lenny Vasbinder
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Lenny Vasbinder

Oops… I reversed my numbers for the NOC’s and IOC’s and then due to snipping a section of my reply, didn’t clearly identify that NOC’s are “National(ized) Oil Companies” meaning they are mostly “state owned” or owned by their respective countries.

These Wiki’s put things back in perspective.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Oil_Company

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_oil_company

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_petroleum_companies

Lenny Vasbinder
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Lenny Vasbinder

Ooops.. I forgot to try and explain the “market” but I doubt I could explain it here anyhow. In simple terms, the “market” is based on supply and demand and also what people are willing to pay for a certain product or service. In the case of BP, if their costs/expenses related to this spill results in them having to charge more than the competition in order to still make money, then all that will happen is the competition will likely raise their own prices to just below BP’s price. Competition is what leads to lower prices for consumers. I… Read more »

Lenny Vasbinder
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Lenny Vasbinder

Actually, Bush did listen to Blanco. He had to under the Constitution and State’s rights… and more particularly, Posse Comitatus. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posse_Comitatus_Act. Bush could NOT send federal troops into LA until Blanco asked for them. MS and AL got federal troops right away while Blanco tried to hang on to her power-grab and wanting to stay in control rather than relinquishing control over the the military. She refused to allow federal troops for at least a week after Katrina. On Sept. 1, 2005, “The Bush administration sent Governor Blanco a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of… Read more »

Lenny Vasbinder
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Lenny Vasbinder

How do you figure we have a smaller government today than in the 70’s? Just look at the budget growth in the past 40 years. In inflation adjusted dollars, federal spending has climbed by 242% since 1970 whereas individual income has only grown by 29%. http://www.heritage.org/BudgetChartbook/growth-federal-spending Federal spending per household in 1970 was under $15K whereas today, in inflation adjusted dollars, it’s over $30K and CLIMBING FAST! http://www.heritage.org/budgetchartbook/federal-spending-per-household Yes, you can find charts and graphs showing the total number of federal employees has not grown proportionately but that is only because there are companies with hundreds of thousands of employees… Read more »

Ann
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Ann

Sorry, I guess, I should add to P-4; Like you implied, “Governors and others down here on the front lines” aren’t a worry for Obama; are they? Why should he listen to them any more than Bush listened to the governor of La before, during and after Katrina? P-5 “they‚Äôre going to charge whatever the market will bear.” Please explain that “market” when it’s controlled by only few giant companies. Oh, but we’re supposed to believe it’s not a monopoly? Nonsense! Few companies, a market does not make. Oh, we’ll end up paying alright, because of that fictitious market that… Read more »

Ann
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Ann

Thanks for the comment, but sorry for my short response: P-1 My suggestion: Don’t trust a government paid for by corporate dollars. Take for instance McDonald’s and the cadmium found in glasses that it sold recently. The media said “federal regulators” found out about it. That was not true. Few agencies inspect anything and those that do aren’t necessarily good at it. Read about this. All government agencies are underpaid and understaffed, because everyone wants a smaller government. Well, we have a much smaller government than in the 1970s, and it can do just so much. Take the FDA and… Read more »

Ann
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Ann

see below

Lenny Vasbinder
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Lenny Vasbinder

P-1, mostly agreed. NOT all businesses are inspected MANY times at MANY phases of their work product… and if they are being inspected by a government agency that isn’t doing it’s job or is telling the business that it’s OK to skip those safety steps, then the burden shifts from the business to the government agency that is approving the *new* rules. P-2. The difference is that Obama IS the president since January 2009 and Democrats have controlled both halls of Congress since 2006… so they have to OWN responsibility for ALL of this regulatory SNAFU’s and cleanup mess. Further,… Read more »

Ann
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Ann

BP made a very serious “accident” due to taking short-cuts and cutting costs. These are accepted things that businesses do, when they can get away with it, to make, not a safer product, but quicker profit. Obama is not any more guilty than any other President or Congress person would be in similar circumstances. No politician in Washington could even (!) run for office without enormous contributions from corporations – that includes BP, who supported both democrats and republicans. (Just ask Ralph Nader, but he intentionally refused corporate contributions and wanted to win by truly democratic choice. But, of course,… Read more »

Lenny Vasbinder
Guest
Lenny Vasbinder

Obama Wimp,

You should be blaming Obama. What happened to BP was an accident… although the steps leading up to the accident were due to BP and MMS approving every step of what BP was doing (See my Timeline Blog).

What Obama is doing.. or rather NOT doing is intentional! He will go down in history as the reason for any major environmental damage to the LA marshes and coastline to those who want to know the truth.

http://lennyvasbinder.blogspot.com/search/label/BP%20Oil%20Spill

Lenny Vasbinder
Guest
Lenny Vasbinder

Ann, I agree with you about Obama sitting on his hands doing nothing when he should have accepted foreign help on the third day, when it was offered.. instead of waiting two months to accept foreign help. He also did nothing about mobilizing the 2,000+ American skimmers, instead leaving us with a few dozen skimmers to handle the spill. He also stood in the way of all of our attempts to block the oil from getting into our LA marshes and coastline and still blocks our attempts today. Now, as far as the 1979 Ixtoc spill in Mexico, it actually… Read more »

Ann
Guest
Ann

Oops! that last comment was by Ann, Sorry!

Obama wimp?
Guest
Obama wimp?

“… it‚Äôs really a seriously bad misreprensentation .. (or is that “misrepresentation”)? Loosen up!

Xeno creatively portrays all sorts news items with all kinds of artistic representations. You might want to follow his blog before criticizing.

The BP oil spill is now the worst that ever occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. This means that the annual “dead zone” in the Gulf will be, despite whatever cleanup successes are in store for us, even larger than before, when it was already the largest in the world.

Thank you, BP.

Lenny Vasbinder
Guest
Lenny Vasbinder

What is that a picture of? It’s not any beaches down here in LA, MS, AL or FL. It kind of looks like the beaches of the 1979 Ixtoc spill but the flags flying on the lifeguard stands are NOT Mexican flags so I wonder where that pic is from… and why it’s on a thread about the BP Oil Spill… it’s really a seriously bad misreprensentation.

Here’s my 12 blog so far about the BP Oil Spill…

http://lennyvasbinder.blogspot.com/search/label/BP

Ann
Guest
Ann

By the way “THE RICHEST AGRICULTURAL REGION IN THE WORLD” is also responsible for the largest “dead zone” in the world – about 7,500 km long along the Gulf Coast. This occurs every summer since 1992. And, it’s been getting bigger just about every year. It is because of fertilizers and chemicals from farmlands all along the Mississippi drain into the warm waters of the Gulf every summer. Environmentalists complained about this for years, but of course the corporate media ain’t going to print that! Environmentalists are also screaming about the Obama his subservient attitude toward BP. Check any website… Read more »

Ann
Guest
Ann

Well, Cole, I just read that there’s actually miles of booms. 7,500 feet since May 1st. [Source: Booms readied near Chef Menteur, Ft. Pike, to protect Lake Pontchartrain from Gulf of Mexico oil spill, May 01, 2010 By Bruce Nolan, The Times-Picayune] And, more than 41 miles of floating booms are being used to contain the oil, with another 58 miles on standby by May 5th: [Source: Black tide that cost BP ¬£20bn as White House threatens to ‘keep boot on throat’ of British firm over Gulf of Mexico oil spill 5th May 2010 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/ ] But, instead of blaming… Read more »

Cole
Guest
Cole

Wait, the reason that we could never comment on one continuous thread for more than 3 was that it had to be SET higher? I didn’t realize that was an option. Good call.

Cole
Guest
Cole

Aww, they changed the icons! I’m gonna miss my little purple quilt pattern. 🙁 Well for one, he could actually let all these organizations implement what they are trying. Louisiana wants to set up booms, but the federal government is saying they can’t because of some missing document. People want to send out ships with special filtration pumps. Somehow, they won’t let them do that either. This is crazy, Obama did all he could to save a TINY, UNIMPORTANT fish by cutting off water supplies to THE RICHEST AGRICULTURAL REGION IN THE WORLD. Now, thousands of fish are at risk… Read more »

Ann
Guest
Ann

Cole, nice thoughts. But, what do you suppose Obama could do, if he wasn’t wasting all his time blaming someone? Seeing how BP is fined by the gallon split into the Gulf I bet they’ve thought of every possibility. This same kind of accident occurred in the Gulf in 1979 by Mexican Premex Oil, but in shallower water and noone could do anything then. It lasted several months until the source exhausted itself. (Expect the same now, so we are told.) We just let these industrial giants do just about whatever they want, believing all along they have the appropriate… Read more »

Cole
Guest
Cole

I saw this program once about this special paper some guy had invented that absorbs oil really well but not water. When water was poured on its surface it just beaded up and rolled off. Maybe that stuff could help, if they could get enough. What would really save the beaches is if Obama would actually do something about it instead of trying to blame it on someone. Blaming solves nothing, the oil is still there. Here are the facts: There is a huge amount of oil accumulating in the Gulf of Mexico, it has the potential to kill thousands… Read more »

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