How BP Messed Up the Environment

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I don't understand
the commotion over oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico when a drilling
operation went sour. Oil has always oozed out of the ground to foul
land, lakes, and oceans. That's how people first discovered the

In nature some
oil on the surface evaporates off as naphtha (probably the basis
of the ancient Greek fire). Other oil is digested by bacteria converting
it into simple organic compounds that other organisms feast on,
leading to a localized exuberant biodiversity. The heavier components
of oil remain as lumps called bitumen or asphalt.

The Dead Sea
was called Lake Asphaltites because of the gooey pebbles that floated
onto the surface from underwater seeps. This asphalt was used on
Egyptian mummies. Oil found floating on lakes or in puddles was
used by Indians to caulk canoes, and as medicines. In California’s
ber-environmentalist Santa Barbara County, an estimated 11 to 160
barrels of oil seep into the ocean daily and have for countless
centuries; the locals have made attempts at capping it.

Oil exists
beneath the surface of the earth under pressure that causes it to
seep to the surface by any available route. When a well is drilled
into a pocket of contained oil the pressure forces it to gush out
and over the wellhead. The pressure in the pool of drilled oil gradually
falls, and the seep ceases. In this way, oil drilling actually has
stopped numerous spills of oil onto the surface where it fouled
land and water for eons.

The British
Petroleum accident allows environmentalists to make arguments against
offshore drilling. If environmentalists really wanted to preserve
pristine nature, they would be appalled that drilling for oil has
interfered with widespread oil seeps that enriched the environment
before mankind messed things up.

The originally
appeared in Liberty

29, 2010

Haas produces a TV show in Grand Rapids, Michigan and vblogs at

2010 Liberty

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