oil spills

David Valentine

University of California, Santa Barbara, Professor, Department of Earth Science

Christopher Reddy

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Director, Coastal Ocean Institute

November 2, 2010

Life of a scientist

Christopher Reddy

image: GeneralDowd

In two recent op-eds, Chris Reddy (2006) shares insights he gained about doing science as he worked on the Gulf oil spill. He describes how his experiences renewed his sense of purpose in his research and drove home the need to improve communication between scientists from different fields.


August 11, 2010

How much oil remains in Gulf?

Pedro Alvarez, Christopher Reddy

photo: James Davidson

Scientists have quickly criticized a federal report that claims to account for all but 26% of the oil spilled in the Gulf. The report discounts the 16% of the oil that dispersed into droplets since its "readily available for biodegradation," but Chris Reddy (2006) contended that microbes biodegrade only parts of the oil and only at their own pace. Pedro Alvarez (2008) questioned the precision of the figures, noting, "We don't know exactly how much was released. It's not like when you have a tank with a known inventory."

August 6, 2010

Cleaning up the Gulf oil spill

Felicia Coleman, Nancy Rabalais, Christopher Reddy, Denise Reed

photo: Jordan Macha, Sierra Club

As containment of the Gulf oil spill progressed, scientists looked at its aftermath amidst the Gulf's other problems. Evaporation is cleaning up the oil more than anything else, but since different compounds evaporate at different speeds, the makeup of the oil is ever-changing, Chris Reddy (2006) said. When flying over the marshes of Louisiana recently, Denise Reed (2006) saw mostly green, which she saw as a sign of the wetlands' resilience. Felicia Coleman (2000) compared the media outcry over the oil spill to the silence on the Gulf's many other persistent problems. The annual low-oxygen "dead zone" caused by overuse of fertilizers reached the size of Massachusetts this year, according to a report by Nancy Rabalais (1999).

July 21, 2010

Contrasting oil spills

Joshua Schimel

photo: John Kepsimelis, US Coast Guard

Despite their similarities, the Gulf oil spill probably won't cause the same shift in national attitudes on the environment that happened after the Santa Barbara oil spill more than 40 years ago, says Joshua Schimel (2006). He reasons that the Gulf coast has oil-industry connections that Santa Barbara lacks and that, 40 years ago, "people were already waking up to pollution and to the damage we were doing to the environment and to its habitability."

July 14, 2010

Dispersants understood to be safe on sea surface

Christopher Reddy

photo: Adrian Cadiz, US Air Force

Scientists understand that dispersants used to help clean up the Gulf oil spill are safe for use on the ocean surface, but effects on deep sea life are unknown, Chris Reddy (2006) testified to a presidential commission. Reddy cautioned that we need to study their use at such depths and in such large amounts.

June 16, 2010

Gulf oil spill: science for the long-term cleanup

Christopher Reddy, Denise Reed

photo: US Navy

To minimize damage to the Louisiana coast, the Gulf oil spill cleanup must be closely tailored to local conditions and monitored long-term using the best science, Denise Reed (2006) told a House Committee on Natural Resources subcommittee June 15. In the same hearing, Chris Reddy (2006) urged House members to engage academic scientists, noting that universities’ involvement in oil spill research has declined over the past 20 years.

June 4, 2010

"What if carbon dioxide were as black as oil?"

Christopher Reddy

image: Yikrazuul

Chris Reddy (2006) contrasts the widespread commitment to solving the Gulf oil spill with continued hesitation on carbon emissions by asking this question in an op-ed for CNN. He urges people to connect the dots between carbon emissions and environmental damage in the same way they have for the oil spill.

May 4, 2010

Scientists weigh implications of Gulf oil spill

P. Dee Boersma, Nancy Rabalais, Christopher Reddy, Denise Reed

photo: NASA

As the Gulf of Mexico oil spill unfolds, several Leopold Leadership Fellows are helping elucidate the implications. Chris Reddy (2006) has called the spill "unprecedented," describing it as "an upside-down faucet, just open and running out." He also advocates burning the oil if possible. Denise Reed (2006) warns that the oil could significantly damage marshes that are "already hanging by a fingernail." However, she points out the spill could increase awareness of the importance of the marshes. Nancy Rabalais (1999) further cautions that the spill could worsen Louisiana's annual "dead zone" caused by fertilizer runoff from the Mississippi. The New York Times interviewed Rabalais on the complexities of oil cleanup, while Dee Boersma (2000) told MSNBC that cleaning wildlife after oil spills is "not cost effective and the animals usually die" soon after from the toxicity.