Sunday, January 23, 2011

Did Superbugs Eat Most Of The BP Oil Spill?

Oceanospirillales are the most common type of bacteria found eating oil in the Gulf.

Homeland Security recently released the Operational Science Advisory Team (OSAT) Final Report which concludes that the vast majority of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill is already gone.

The Gulf oil spill was abated by bacteria that feed on hydrocarbons. That's how the Washington Post summarized the OSAT Report. How did these bacteria work so quickly? The article explains that as follows:

"The gulf has more natural seeps than any other body of water in or around North America. Because of this constant supply of hydrocarbons, there is always a healthy population of bacteria floating around the gulf looking for more food. When BP's well blew out, these tiny creatures went into a feeding frenzy."

So, basically, because the Gulf has an unusually high amount of natural oil seepage the bacteria were already thriving and the BP oil spill just kicked them into high gear.

As the BP oil spill continued for several months, some scientists were concerned that methane, as much as half the flow from the wellhead, would spread in large clouds that would eventually leave sizable areas of the Gulf hypoxic, starving marine life of oxygen. The Houston Chronicle reported on a paper published Jan 7 in the journal Science. Texas A&M University oceanographer John Kessler co-authored the paper and he said that "The methane was gone" when they collected samples.

"When we went back out we were just seeing the last breath of a once great methane plume. It went away much faster than we expected, and it's kind of the inspirational story of the oil spill", Kessler said. The paper concludes that large amounts of bacteria bloomed rapidly as the methane levels rose and metabolized the natural gas as food.

Kessler said, "When you look at how fast it must have decomposed from when we left the water in June to September, those rates, while they are in the realm of possibilities, are higher than anything that's ever been measured. ... What we found is that the ocean, in this capacity at least, had a remarkable ability to take care of itself."

If you think this story about superbugs gobbling up all of the oil sounds too good to be true, you aren't alone. Many conspiracy theories claim that synthetically engineered viruses called bacteriophages, or ‘phages’, must have been used to infect and alter the genetics of indigenous Gulf bacteria or a new species of bacteria was synthetically created to eat up the oil and/or gas.

And of course the conspiracy theorists claim that BP introduced the synthetically engineered bacteria into the gulf, or at least the knew about them. The most damning evidence is this 17 second clip from a BBC interview:

This 17 second clip came from a September 2010 video interview with Mike Utsler, the Chief Operating Officer of BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration. Utsler publicly admitted on camera:

There is a new form of microbiology that is attacking this (oil) plume and using it as a food source”.

In May 2010, National Geographic quoted Dr. Terry Hazen from the U.S. government’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who said,

“…we could introduce a genetic material into indigenous bugs via a bacteriophage – a virus that infects bacteria – to give local microbes DNA that would allow them to break down oil. Either that, he said, or a lab could create a completely new organism that thrives in the ocean, eats oil, and needs a certain stimulant to live…”

You can read much more supporting "evidence" for the synthetic engineering conspiracy theory from Michael Edward of the World Vision Portal. Edward also explains how he believes that microorganisms and bacteriophages in the Gulf are mutating as well.

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