Oil Change International

Exposing the true costs of fossil fuels

Scientists told to “Shut Up” Over Spill

weatherbirdYesterday the environmental campaign group Greenpeace announced it was launching a three-month expedition to analyse the impact of BP’s oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico.

The Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise will “host independent scientists who will be researching the impacts of oil and chemical dispersants on Gulf ecosystems and marine life,” said John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director.

“From the very start, the full scope of the Gulf oil disaster has been obscured by BP and even our own government,” said Hovevar.

Further evidence of this obscuration was explored in a great article earlier this week in the St. Petersburg Times.

It outlines how scientists from the University of Florida – who had uncovered a huge six-mile plume of oil underwater- were told to “shut up” by the two agencies sponsoring their research: the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The University of Florida has created an oil spill task force with 29 faculty members to coordinate research and response efforts related to the spill. It is a key academic instution analysing the spill’s effects.

“I got lambasted by the Coast Guard and NOAA when we said there was undersea oil,” USF marine sciences dean William Hogarth tells the paper. Some officials even told him to retract USF’s public announcement, he said, comparing it to being “beat up” by federal officials.

Hogarth’s team gave their data to NOAA, expecting to get either a shared analysis or the samples themselves back. So far they have received neither.

Other scientists suffered a similar treatment. Vernon Asper, an oceanographer at the University of Southern Mississippi, who was part of the same research effort, also tells the paper. “We expected that NOAA would be pleased because we found something very, very interesting. NOAA instead responded by trying to discredit us. It was just a shock to us.”

Asper alleges that NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, called the scientists “inept idiots”.

It was USF scientists who last month announced they could match the oil droplets in the undersea plumes to BP’s well.  “What we have learned completely changes the idea of what an oil spill is,” USF scientist David Hollander said then. “It has gone from a two-dimensional disaster to a three-dimensional catastrophe.”

But what is happening is that the media continue to look at this as a two dimensional disaster. Some tabloid reports this week have shown reporters sitting on beaches and because there is no oil on them any more saying that the disaster has been exaggerated and has been cleaned up.

But it is the effect of this spill on the deep ocean and its inhabitants that is really scaring scientists.

Last week, researchers from the USF prepared to depart on another 10-day research expedition to the northern Gulf on the ship R/V Weatherbird II (pictured above).

Crucially they will return to the same area that USF scientists discovered the underwatered clouds of oil oil.

They hope to study the effect of oil on the smallest members of the food stream — plankton and microscopic organisms. They’ll also be looking for signs of dispersants and for oil in the sand.

“This is probably the first comprehensive study of this magnitude,” Bill Hogarth said.

The USF research mission will be criticial in unravelling the secrets of the deep.

And if the Greenpeace research trip can assist looking at the impact of oil and dispersant in the deep ocean, then that can only be a good thing too.

Comments (7)

  1. sal says:

    Greenpeace is only interested in banning light bulbs from homes and forcing them to use dangerous mercury filled flourescents. Greenpeace is controlled by interests and is sponsored by the worst and most powerful elitist group on the planet, they were created to monopolise and control any opposition against the rich and powerful by the rich and powerful themselves. Don’t pin your hopes on greenpeace, they deceive even themselves.

  2. christine says:

    That comment from sal is downright bizarre.

  3. Sam says:

    Interesting comment. Sal, but it’s irrelevant.

    Thad Allen has been a shill for BP since this thing started. Whether he was acting on his own initiative or as directed from above is the only open question.

  4. Tell the Truth says:

    Oil companies give money to legislators to buy “weak environmental regulations, giant subsidies for their companies and a national energy policy that keeps us dependent on dirty energy.”

    TAKE ACTION!

    Get a “Clean Up Dirty Money Tool Kit” from Greenpeace here: http://gpeace.convio.net/site/DocServer/DirtyMoneyToolkit.pdf?docID=601

    This terrific kit provides a step-by-step plan and everything you need to fight the $15,000,000 donated in the last Congress alone from Dirty Energy Polluters like BP.

    This is truly one of the BEST, and easiest to implement, action plans I’ve seen.

    Please EVERYONE download the “CLEAN UP DIRTY MONEY TOOL KIT” and use it to contact your Senators and Representatives now during the Congressional recess. We can stop some of the corporate corruption and buying of Congress if we all work together!

    The kit includes instructions, sample letters and even a response card to send to your Senators and Representatives to keep them honest. The card asks them to check off one of the following:

    YES, I will donate all the campaign contributions I received from oil and
    coal companies during the last congressional session to the Gulf Coast
    recovery efforts and refuse any such future contributions.
    OR
    NO, I plan on keeping all the contributions I received from oil and coal
    companies during the last congressional session.

    Here’s the kit: http://gpeace.convio.net/site/DocServer/DirtyMoneyToolkit.pdf?docID=601

    Another resource: DIRTY ENERGY MONEY – http://dirtyenergymoney.com/

  5. George says:

    Hey Sal, how much mercury is released into the atmosphere by burning enough coal to power those mercury-free incandescent bulbs?

  6. Tell the Truth says:

    We need to reach 500,000 individual signatures on the

    FIGHT WASHINGTON CORRUPTION Pledge

    We’re only 9,000 signatures away.

    Can you ask someone you know to sign the pledge right now?

    Send them to: http://www.fightwashingtoncorruption.com/

    There is more information on the website. You can see which members of Congress have signed the pledge and watch the counter on the page as we reach our goal.

    Please disseminate this widely! Thanks.

  7. Rebecca says:

    I’m starting to wonder if these clowns who post ridiculous things after thought provoking articles (yes @ Sal, that includes y.o.u.) are being paid to do so. Are they part of the corporate lobby machine that is KILLING our country?

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