Post-Hayward, post-spill, what about dispersants?

So, as predicted, Tony Hayward will be off shortly. Now the cap is on the Macondo well, attention will turn to both the lawsuits and the clean-up.

As Mallen Baker argues, in some ways Tony Hayward has been unfairly treated by politicians and the media.

I know a few folks at, or ex-BP, and they’ve all told me how morale at the company has taken a big beating in the last few months, as you’d expect. So Hayward going, and Bob Dudley getting the job is probably the right move all round.

Now BP has to get on with declaring financial results, defending itself from takeover, and, course, paying for the clean-up, if the Libya story does not drag them further into the mire.

Sorting out the environmental mess is going to be controversial, and already claims are emerging that BP is so far none too keen on being open about early stage environmental research findings.

This may be being unfair. I’m taking lots of BP ‘news’ with a pinch of salt right now.

But another problem for BP and the environment may also be raising its head:

This article: Gulf Dispersants: BP and Nalco Play Toxic Roulette published on the watchdog site Corporate watch, provides some evidence that the dispersants used on the oil in the Gulf of Mexico are problematic for a couple of reasons.

One is that the evidence on how good the dispersants are for breaking down oil is mixed:

“Decision-making about dispersants,” Carys Mitchelmore told the New Orleans Time Picayune, is undermined by “fundamental, basic questions that have not been addressed. Like is it really true that oil is more degradable by bacteria when it’s in the small oil droplet form, and is dispersed oil less damaging to birds and marine mammals? There’s all kind of conflicting science on both of those questions.” Mitchelmore is an associate professor of environmental toxicology and chemistry at the University of Maryland’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.”

The second is that it’s unclear what impact they have on the environment:

“…in an unprecedented experiment, a half million gallons of Corexit has been injected a mile deep at the blown-out well head. This untested technique has caused oil to become suspended in great plumes before it reaches the surface, further hiding the quantity of leaked oil. An added bonus of the deep sea application for BP is that marine life killed by the plumes dies out-of-sight, and sinks to the ocean floor, rather than grimly dying on camera in oil-coated misery.”

So the clean-up MAY not just be about oil, but about the unintended consequences of adding another chemical into the mix.

My fervent hope is that the dispersant concerns are overblown, part of the ongoing sometimes-hysterical reaction to the spill.

Or the Gulf, and BP, could face another major problem for the environment.

Only time will tell. Fingers crossed.

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