The Gulf oil spill in perspective

Paul Schwennesen puts the environmental disaster in perspective:

Picture your neighbor’s pool. Unless you live in Malibu, it’ll contain about 6,000 gallons. That’s the “Gulf” for purposes of discussion. Now go to your garage, get a quart of oil and pour it in when he’s not looking. Pretty good sense of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, right?

Nope, not even close. Put a drop of that oil onto a sheet of paper and carefully cut it in half. Now do it again and toss that quarter of a drop into the deep end. Even this quarter droplet (about the size of the comma in this sentence) is about 10% too large, but NOW you have a sense of what 4.9 million barrels of oil in the Gulf looks like.[1]

Now that we’ve grappled with the issue of scale, let’s look at the aftermath of this ‘catastrophe.’ According to the government scientists, seventy-five percent of that sliver of a droplet has now evaporated, been eaten by microbes, skimmed or burnt. (This estimate is in dispute, but every day the released oil is being reduced to get to that figure, if not beyond it.)

Now, you’re going to need to borrow your kid’s microscope for the rest of this exercise….

“Ah,” says the ecologist in you, “but oil is like poison to an ecosystem, and so any amount is disproportionately harmful.” Well, the science doesn’t agree, but let’s assume for the moment that you’re right. Ignoring that the vast majority of this poison-oil has already been happily consumed by portions of this delicate ecosystem, let’s pretend that oil is to the Gulf what botulinum toxin is to man (really bad news, as it’s the deadliest substance known). Distributed uniformly, oil would contaminate the water of the Gulf at a ratio of eight thousand millionths per gallon. If the same concentration of botulinum existed in your swimming pool, you could safely spend the day in it without a second thought.[2] Sure, oil is not distributed uniformly, but shrill cries about the “collapse” of the Gulf’s ecosystem imply that it effects are. It is indeed true that every action has reverberating ecological consequences, but if we delude ourselves into thinking this means disintegration then we risk making poor policy choices.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am firmly in the camp of those who think the Gulf ecosystem is a wonderful and valuable thing that we should never take for granted. Furthermore, it’s not my intention here to dismiss or minimize BP’s bungle. Neither am I suggesting cleanup shouldn’t continue with the utmost diligence. After all, “scale” matters not one whit if that sliver of oil washes into your crab pots. Legally, BP should be held to account for their negligence and must make whole anyone whose property or livelihood they have harmed.

But two lessons rise to the surface here. The first is to never underestimate the power of ecosystems to absorb shocks and adapt to change. While we should not treat Nature with reckless disregard, we should also not dishonor her by intimating that she stands in precarious balance, perennially on the brink of human-caused collapse. As ecology continues to develop as a science, I expect that it will be the extraordinary resilience of natural systems that will become the prevailing acknowledgment.

The second lesson is that we must demand a sense of perspective when dealing with issues of environmental concern. The natural inclination when faced with torrents of extremely focused media coverage is to extrapolate broadly to “the ecosystem” at large. Hysteria and fear do not make for good policy, however. An inability to properly understand ecological sensitivity leads to dire predictions which fuel misguided regulatory reaction.

via The Catastrophe That Wasn’t: The Gulf Oil Spill in Perspective — MasterResource.

HT:Joe Carter

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Robert Snyder

    Dr. Veith,
    Thank you for passing along this notice. It reminds me of a recent article I read in WORLD on a Christian climatologist, who suspected something was afoul with the current model due to its assumption that the environment is fragile. Thanks to God, the environment, like our bodies, has an amazing resilience, and power to heal. Given the curse, this is a huge mercy, and one that we should often (when reminded) thank God for. So…thank you again.
    Bob Snyder

  • Robert Snyder

    Dr. Veith,
    Thank you for passing along this notice. It reminds me of a recent article I read in WORLD on a Christian climatologist, who suspected something was afoul with the current model due to its assumption that the environment is fragile. Thanks to God, the environment, like our bodies, has an amazing resilience, and power to heal. Given the curse, this is a huge mercy, and one that we should often (when reminded) thank God for. So…thank you again.
    Bob Snyder

  • http://www.cumberlandisland.blogspot.com Adrian Keister

    What a fantastic piece of expository scientific writing! The rhetoric is excellent, especially with the initial quart morphing to a quarter of a drop. I’m sure there’s some fancy name for it, although I don’t know what it is.

    Cheers.

  • http://www.cumberlandisland.blogspot.com Adrian Keister

    What a fantastic piece of expository scientific writing! The rhetoric is excellent, especially with the initial quart morphing to a quarter of a drop. I’m sure there’s some fancy name for it, although I don’t know what it is.

    Cheers.

  • Kirk

    I buy some of what this guy is saying, but I’d caution to take a lot of it with a grain of salt.

    I think that his pool analogy fails simply because the gulf is not a pool. It has currents, temperature variations, surface winds, weather, congregations of marine life, dead zones, and the scales of water and oil are so much more vast. Comparing ratios of water to oil in the gulf completely misses the point because, as he says, the oil doesn’t spread evenly. Nor does marine life spread evenly. The same forces that cause oil to gather in an area are the same forces that cause plankton and krill and other microbial life to congregate, which in turn attracts larger and larger predators (many of which we eat). Furthermore, a human being may not be effected by a small number of parts per million of oil, but microscopic life is susceptible, which could have a domino effect up the food chain.

    The simple fact is this: oil damages ecosystems. It’s not something nature in the sea or on the surface comes into contact with regularly. You really don’t need to look further than Exxon Valdez to see this. Fortunately, Deep Water Horizon was a different circumstance: a different type of oil, a different environment and a different response. And things seem to be panning out all right. But it wasn’t unreasonable to think that millions and millions of gallons of oil pouring into the gulf would have had (and we’re talking speculatively that it won’t. We just don’t know for sure one way or the other) a terrible effect on the environment in the gulf. And, imagine if it had and the government and BP hadn’t made a huge effort to stop the spill and clean the oil. It would have been terrible. With the exception of drilling ban, I think the US response to the spill has fair and even handed. I think that, despite some hiccups, the government and private enterprise abated what had the potential to be a huge problem.

  • Kirk

    I buy some of what this guy is saying, but I’d caution to take a lot of it with a grain of salt.

    I think that his pool analogy fails simply because the gulf is not a pool. It has currents, temperature variations, surface winds, weather, congregations of marine life, dead zones, and the scales of water and oil are so much more vast. Comparing ratios of water to oil in the gulf completely misses the point because, as he says, the oil doesn’t spread evenly. Nor does marine life spread evenly. The same forces that cause oil to gather in an area are the same forces that cause plankton and krill and other microbial life to congregate, which in turn attracts larger and larger predators (many of which we eat). Furthermore, a human being may not be effected by a small number of parts per million of oil, but microscopic life is susceptible, which could have a domino effect up the food chain.

    The simple fact is this: oil damages ecosystems. It’s not something nature in the sea or on the surface comes into contact with regularly. You really don’t need to look further than Exxon Valdez to see this. Fortunately, Deep Water Horizon was a different circumstance: a different type of oil, a different environment and a different response. And things seem to be panning out all right. But it wasn’t unreasonable to think that millions and millions of gallons of oil pouring into the gulf would have had (and we’re talking speculatively that it won’t. We just don’t know for sure one way or the other) a terrible effect on the environment in the gulf. And, imagine if it had and the government and BP hadn’t made a huge effort to stop the spill and clean the oil. It would have been terrible. With the exception of drilling ban, I think the US response to the spill has fair and even handed. I think that, despite some hiccups, the government and private enterprise abated what had the potential to be a huge problem.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    This is frankly stupid. The dynamics of intercoastal waterway ecology can in no meaningful way be modeled by a swimming pool.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    This is frankly stupid. The dynamics of intercoastal waterway ecology can in no meaningful way be modeled by a swimming pool.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “But it wasn’t unreasonable to think that millions and millions of gallons of oil pouring into the gulf would have had (and we’re talking speculatively that it won’t.”

    Sure it was unreasonable. That is, it was not based on actual reasons. Like you said, all of the actual reasons the Valdez spill were so bad were significantly different from what really happened with the BP well. We have already seen what happens when there is a gigantic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico because of the PEMEX spill back in ’79. We had data and observations. Petroleum is pretty well understood. Certainly an oil spill is to be avoided. However, so long as they are rare, they are just damaging not devastating. Mexico and PEMEX sure didn’t knock themselves out to stop the leak or clean it up, and the Gulf still recovered.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “But it wasn’t unreasonable to think that millions and millions of gallons of oil pouring into the gulf would have had (and we’re talking speculatively that it won’t.”

    Sure it was unreasonable. That is, it was not based on actual reasons. Like you said, all of the actual reasons the Valdez spill were so bad were significantly different from what really happened with the BP well. We have already seen what happens when there is a gigantic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico because of the PEMEX spill back in ’79. We had data and observations. Petroleum is pretty well understood. Certainly an oil spill is to be avoided. However, so long as they are rare, they are just damaging not devastating. Mexico and PEMEX sure didn’t knock themselves out to stop the leak or clean it up, and the Gulf still recovered.

  • WebMonk

    I’m not sure if I should categorize that reporter as an idiot or an out and out liar. I hope he is just blind and stupid rather than a purposeful liar. Actually, I know exactly what he is – he a reporter generating a sensational result, regardless of how closely it mirrors real life, compounded by the desire to promote a particular social/political position.

    To be a valid comparison, you don’t compare it to the entire volume of the Gulf, you compare it to the area being affected. Putting water from over 700 miles away into the comparison is nonsense. And then you need to consider the amount of oil that reaches the shoreline per mile of shoreline to get a good comparison for how much oil is affecting the shoreline. And then take into account the natural gas, not just the oil. And then see how much gas or oil it takes in the water to start killing things. And then, and then, and then,….. There are too many “and then” statements to list here.

    The reporter puts a single sentence fragment to reflect all that: “Sure, oil is not distributed uniformly, but ….”

    The guy is writing a hack piece without any concern for what is real. I could say “Sure, the sun is hot, but it’s over 80 million miles away, and only the tiniest quadrillionth of a percent of its energy actually hits the earth, and most of it isn’t hitting people, but rather the atmosphere and the ground, so no one has to worry about getting a sun burn.” I would then be dismissed as spouting nonsense. That’s almost exactly what that reporter is doing.

    Dr. Veith, what have we tried to explain to you over and over and over and over? Any attempt at explaining anything even remotely scientific has a vanishing small chance of being accurate when reported by a reporter or opinion piece writer.

    A writer (in theory) should be able to accurately state that while the oil spill was damaging and a travesty, the more extreme statements being passed around by shrill voices of total devastation for decades to come are false. But does he do that? No! He has to become a shrill voice himself and go running to the opposite extreme and say the Gulf spill is of negligible impact!

  • WebMonk

    I’m not sure if I should categorize that reporter as an idiot or an out and out liar. I hope he is just blind and stupid rather than a purposeful liar. Actually, I know exactly what he is – he a reporter generating a sensational result, regardless of how closely it mirrors real life, compounded by the desire to promote a particular social/political position.

    To be a valid comparison, you don’t compare it to the entire volume of the Gulf, you compare it to the area being affected. Putting water from over 700 miles away into the comparison is nonsense. And then you need to consider the amount of oil that reaches the shoreline per mile of shoreline to get a good comparison for how much oil is affecting the shoreline. And then take into account the natural gas, not just the oil. And then see how much gas or oil it takes in the water to start killing things. And then, and then, and then,….. There are too many “and then” statements to list here.

    The reporter puts a single sentence fragment to reflect all that: “Sure, oil is not distributed uniformly, but ….”

    The guy is writing a hack piece without any concern for what is real. I could say “Sure, the sun is hot, but it’s over 80 million miles away, and only the tiniest quadrillionth of a percent of its energy actually hits the earth, and most of it isn’t hitting people, but rather the atmosphere and the ground, so no one has to worry about getting a sun burn.” I would then be dismissed as spouting nonsense. That’s almost exactly what that reporter is doing.

    Dr. Veith, what have we tried to explain to you over and over and over and over? Any attempt at explaining anything even remotely scientific has a vanishing small chance of being accurate when reported by a reporter or opinion piece writer.

    A writer (in theory) should be able to accurately state that while the oil spill was damaging and a travesty, the more extreme statements being passed around by shrill voices of total devastation for decades to come are false. But does he do that? No! He has to become a shrill voice himself and go running to the opposite extreme and say the Gulf spill is of negligible impact!

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Um, Webmonk and others, the writer has a real point. Unless we can point to a mechanism whereby a thin sheen of oil will have catastrophic effects, we need to keep in mind the incredible dilution of the spill by the sheer volume of water. The writer can also point to the low number of actual animal deaths as a result.

    Do a little more meticulous analysis? You bet! Ignore the reality of dilution? No way.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Um, Webmonk and others, the writer has a real point. Unless we can point to a mechanism whereby a thin sheen of oil will have catastrophic effects, we need to keep in mind the incredible dilution of the spill by the sheer volume of water. The writer can also point to the low number of actual animal deaths as a result.

    Do a little more meticulous analysis? You bet! Ignore the reality of dilution? No way.

  • Kirk

    Bike, try pouring oil into water and note the dilution. It doesn’t occur because oil molecules don’t bond well with hydrogen. Oil and water typically repel each other preventing dilution and causing the oil to clump together. That’s why there are “plumes.” It’s why you need to shake up vinaigrettes and why you need soap to break down grease in pans, to point to some day to day examples. In short, with an oil spill, you’ll have heavy localized concentrations which can be very bad if they’re concentrated in certain areas.

  • Kirk

    Bike, try pouring oil into water and note the dilution. It doesn’t occur because oil molecules don’t bond well with hydrogen. Oil and water typically repel each other preventing dilution and causing the oil to clump together. That’s why there are “plumes.” It’s why you need to shake up vinaigrettes and why you need soap to break down grease in pans, to point to some day to day examples. In short, with an oil spill, you’ll have heavy localized concentrations which can be very bad if they’re concentrated in certain areas.

  • Cincinnatus

    Webmonk (and Kirk): I see your point(s), but it would seem that this article, if not wholly correct, at least makes a valuable contribution to the discussion. It was only a few short weeks ago that we were being told that the oil would decimate all life in the Gulf before roiling across the sea to devastate the entire Atlantic Coast and even Scotland! Some were even predicting a domino-like destruction of the global food chain, beginning with the utter obliteration of the Gulf ecosystem.

    What we’ve learned–as exemplified in articles like this–is that, thankfully, it’s not actually that bad. It is bad: some beaches have been/are going to be trashed, some habitats have been ruined (perhaps beyond repair?)–it was an environmental disaster, after all. But all life on earth is not endangered. In fact, due to the peculiar nature of this oil and its context, microbes are consuming the vast majority of it.

    In short, I have a hard time mustering the WHAARGARBL to rant at an article that is finally bringing some balance back to the discussion, even if it is a tad misguided.

  • Cincinnatus

    Webmonk (and Kirk): I see your point(s), but it would seem that this article, if not wholly correct, at least makes a valuable contribution to the discussion. It was only a few short weeks ago that we were being told that the oil would decimate all life in the Gulf before roiling across the sea to devastate the entire Atlantic Coast and even Scotland! Some were even predicting a domino-like destruction of the global food chain, beginning with the utter obliteration of the Gulf ecosystem.

    What we’ve learned–as exemplified in articles like this–is that, thankfully, it’s not actually that bad. It is bad: some beaches have been/are going to be trashed, some habitats have been ruined (perhaps beyond repair?)–it was an environmental disaster, after all. But all life on earth is not endangered. In fact, due to the peculiar nature of this oil and its context, microbes are consuming the vast majority of it.

    In short, I have a hard time mustering the WHAARGARBL to rant at an article that is finally bringing some balance back to the discussion, even if it is a tad misguided.

  • DonS

    The article has value in helping to quantify how big the Gulf is. Otherwise, we tend to be overwhelmed by the notion that 4.9 million barrels of oil were spilled.

    Otherwise, the article is a bit simplistic.

  • DonS

    The article has value in helping to quantify how big the Gulf is. Otherwise, we tend to be overwhelmed by the notion that 4.9 million barrels of oil were spilled.

    Otherwise, the article is a bit simplistic.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The writer can also point to the low number of actual animal deaths as a result.”

    This is the one that always leaves me scratching my head.

    Animals die every day anyway. I love critters, and it tugs at my heart to think of them suffering. However, honestly we know that is a given with or without an oil spill. So, unless the deaths are huge and concentrated, it is a non issue.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The writer can also point to the low number of actual animal deaths as a result.”

    This is the one that always leaves me scratching my head.

    Animals die every day anyway. I love critters, and it tugs at my heart to think of them suffering. However, honestly we know that is a given with or without an oil spill. So, unless the deaths are huge and concentrated, it is a non issue.

  • Tom Hering

    “So, unless the deaths are huge and concentrated, it is a non issue.” – sg @ 11.

    So that’s what a consistent pro-life position looks like! Just half-kidding. Wholly seriously, we are talking about theunnecessary deaths of creatures who belong to God, not us. If we can cause these deaths, we can prevent them.

  • Tom Hering

    “So, unless the deaths are huge and concentrated, it is a non issue.” – sg @ 11.

    So that’s what a consistent pro-life position looks like! Just half-kidding. Wholly seriously, we are talking about theunnecessary deaths of creatures who belong to God, not us. If we can cause these deaths, we can prevent them.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Yes, Tom.
    My point is there is no control group. I mean on any given day, you can go out and find dead critters. On a day with an oil spill, they are covered with oil. However, the point is whether there is significant impact. Obviously we shouldn’t be reckless in causing needless suffering.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Yes, Tom.
    My point is there is no control group. I mean on any given day, you can go out and find dead critters. On a day with an oil spill, they are covered with oil. However, the point is whether there is significant impact. Obviously we shouldn’t be reckless in causing needless suffering.

  • Tom Hering

    sg, I suspect we agree on animal welfare issues. I just wanted to hear you say that animal death, when it’s the result of human recklessness, is indeed “needless suffering.” Too many people have no empathy at all for God’s creatures.

  • Tom Hering

    sg, I suspect we agree on animal welfare issues. I just wanted to hear you say that animal death, when it’s the result of human recklessness, is indeed “needless suffering.” Too many people have no empathy at all for God’s creatures.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@9), I’ll give you points for your WHAARGARBL reference (even if, well, you did misspell it), but I’m having a hard time seeing how your argument doesn’t boil down to, “There were too many crazy fools saying X before. Thankfully, now there’s this crazy fool saying Y! Ahhh.” I would respectfully suggest that that’s not “bringing some balance back to the discussion”, as you’ve only increased the number of crazy fools you’re paying attention to, even if they disagree. Perhaps we should throw in some non-crazy non-fools? Just maybe?

    (I mean, honestly, who was arguing Scotland was going to be devastated, much less “all life on earth”? And you were paying attention to these people? Why?)

    Also, SG (@5), I’m amused by your semantics, in which you said “it was unreasonable” to “think that millions and millions of gallons of oil pouring into the gulf would have had … a terrible effect on the environment in the gulf”, and yet then go on to say that spills like that are “damaging” but “not devastating”. I guess you possess a rather strict hierarchy of devastation that I am unaware of, in which “damaging” < "terrible" <= "devastating".

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@9), I’ll give you points for your WHAARGARBL reference (even if, well, you did misspell it), but I’m having a hard time seeing how your argument doesn’t boil down to, “There were too many crazy fools saying X before. Thankfully, now there’s this crazy fool saying Y! Ahhh.” I would respectfully suggest that that’s not “bringing some balance back to the discussion”, as you’ve only increased the number of crazy fools you’re paying attention to, even if they disagree. Perhaps we should throw in some non-crazy non-fools? Just maybe?

    (I mean, honestly, who was arguing Scotland was going to be devastated, much less “all life on earth”? And you were paying attention to these people? Why?)

    Also, SG (@5), I’m amused by your semantics, in which you said “it was unreasonable” to “think that millions and millions of gallons of oil pouring into the gulf would have had … a terrible effect on the environment in the gulf”, and yet then go on to say that spills like that are “damaging” but “not devastating”. I guess you possess a rather strict hierarchy of devastation that I am unaware of, in which “damaging” < "terrible" <= "devastating".

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m willing to take up this guy’s analysis, for what it’s worth.

    Let’s pretend that oil is to the Gulf what botulinum toxin is to man. … Distributed uniformly, oil would contaminate the water of the Gulf at a ratio of eight thousand millionths per gallon. If the same concentration of botulinum existed in your swimming pool, you could safely spend the day in it without a second thought.[2]”

    Oddly, there is no footnote [2] in the original article. No idea where that went. And there is the rather huge caveat that the original article makes that “Sure, oil is not distributed uniformly,” which WebMonk already touched on (@6).

    But let’s assume the oil (represented in this thought experiment by botulinum toxin) is, against all probability perfectly evenly distributed.

    Now, botulinum toxin has an LD50 of .0004 micrograms per kilogram (at least for strain D). That means that if a group of 75 lb (34 kg) children were each given 13.6 nanograms of the toxin, 50% of them would die. Potent!

    Now let’s assume that, in an average day of horseplay, this average child might consume 100 mL (0.4 cups) of pool water, accidentally or otherwise.

    What would be the total amount of botulinum toxin we’d have to put into a 6000-gallon pool to get that 100 mL of pool water to the LD50 level? That would be (13.6 nanograms / 100 mL) * 6000 gallons … pardon the messy units, Google cleans it all up … for a grand total of 3.1 milligrams of botulinum toxin in your pool.

    Okay, so 3.1 milligrams (0.0001 ounces, if you’re not into metric) of botulinum in your pool, evenly distributed, is enough to kill your child if he swallows less than half a cup.

    And Paul “the Gulf ecosystem is a wonderful and valuable thing” Schwennesen somehow has the ignorance or arrogance to claim that “If the same concentration of botulinum existed in your swimming pool, you could safely spend the day in it without a second thought.”

    I am not letting that guy work at the local public pool.

    Seriously, 3 milligrams is the amount of some B-vitamins found in your average multivitamin. That much botulinum in your pool (not the entire pill, just, oh, B6), mixed around thoroughly, kills your kid. I’m pretty certain that’s a whole lot less than the ridiculously unscientific “quarter droplet” Schwennesen mentioned.

    If this guy knows as little about oil as he does about botulinum, the Gulf is screwed.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m willing to take up this guy’s analysis, for what it’s worth.

    Let’s pretend that oil is to the Gulf what botulinum toxin is to man. … Distributed uniformly, oil would contaminate the water of the Gulf at a ratio of eight thousand millionths per gallon. If the same concentration of botulinum existed in your swimming pool, you could safely spend the day in it without a second thought.[2]”

    Oddly, there is no footnote [2] in the original article. No idea where that went. And there is the rather huge caveat that the original article makes that “Sure, oil is not distributed uniformly,” which WebMonk already touched on (@6).

    But let’s assume the oil (represented in this thought experiment by botulinum toxin) is, against all probability perfectly evenly distributed.

    Now, botulinum toxin has an LD50 of .0004 micrograms per kilogram (at least for strain D). That means that if a group of 75 lb (34 kg) children were each given 13.6 nanograms of the toxin, 50% of them would die. Potent!

    Now let’s assume that, in an average day of horseplay, this average child might consume 100 mL (0.4 cups) of pool water, accidentally or otherwise.

    What would be the total amount of botulinum toxin we’d have to put into a 6000-gallon pool to get that 100 mL of pool water to the LD50 level? That would be (13.6 nanograms / 100 mL) * 6000 gallons … pardon the messy units, Google cleans it all up … for a grand total of 3.1 milligrams of botulinum toxin in your pool.

    Okay, so 3.1 milligrams (0.0001 ounces, if you’re not into metric) of botulinum in your pool, evenly distributed, is enough to kill your child if he swallows less than half a cup.

    And Paul “the Gulf ecosystem is a wonderful and valuable thing” Schwennesen somehow has the ignorance or arrogance to claim that “If the same concentration of botulinum existed in your swimming pool, you could safely spend the day in it without a second thought.”

    I am not letting that guy work at the local public pool.

    Seriously, 3 milligrams is the amount of some B-vitamins found in your average multivitamin. That much botulinum in your pool (not the entire pill, just, oh, B6), mixed around thoroughly, kills your kid. I’m pretty certain that’s a whole lot less than the ridiculously unscientific “quarter droplet” Schwennesen mentioned.

    If this guy knows as little about oil as he does about botulinum, the Gulf is screwed.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Ah, good. Forgot to close the blockquote in my screed. It should have ended after the first paragraph, after “… without a second thought.[2]”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Ah, good. Forgot to close the blockquote in my screed. It should have ended after the first paragraph, after “… without a second thought.[2]”

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “sg, I suspect we agree on animal welfare issues. ”

    That would surprise me. I am pretty extreme in favor of animal protection. However, I draw the line at mosquitos and fire ants.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “sg, I suspect we agree on animal welfare issues. ”

    That would surprise me. I am pretty extreme in favor of animal protection. However, I draw the line at mosquitos and fire ants.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ tODD

    The point was simply we had a pretty good idea of what would happen in the Gulf because we had experienced it before with the PEMEX disaster, which lasted longer and dumped more. So, yeah, some of the hype was unreasonable.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    @ tODD

    The point was simply we had a pretty good idea of what would happen in the Gulf because we had experienced it before with the PEMEX disaster, which lasted longer and dumped more. So, yeah, some of the hype was unreasonable.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Seriously, 3 milligrams is the amount of some B-vitamins found in your average multivitamin. That much botulinum in your pool (not the entire pill, just, oh, B6), mixed around thoroughly, kills your kid. I’m pretty certain that’s a whole lot less than the ridiculously unscientific “quarter droplet” Schwennesen mentioned.”

    Good point about toxicity and concentration. However, the toxicity of oil is pretty well understood and is nowhere near as toxic as botulinum. So, while a tiny drop of botulinum in the pool may kill a kid, a whole bucket of oil will not. This is all known.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Seriously, 3 milligrams is the amount of some B-vitamins found in your average multivitamin. That much botulinum in your pool (not the entire pill, just, oh, B6), mixed around thoroughly, kills your kid. I’m pretty certain that’s a whole lot less than the ridiculously unscientific “quarter droplet” Schwennesen mentioned.”

    Good point about toxicity and concentration. However, the toxicity of oil is pretty well understood and is nowhere near as toxic as botulinum. So, while a tiny drop of botulinum in the pool may kill a kid, a whole bucket of oil will not. This is all known.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@20), the question wasn’t: “is oil as toxic as botulinum?” The question remains: (1) does Schwennesen know what he’s talking about, and (b) if so, can he construct a meaningful comparison to explain it to us?

    Pretty sure he fails on both counts, for reasons I and others have explained in detail.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SG (@20), the question wasn’t: “is oil as toxic as botulinum?” The question remains: (1) does Schwennesen know what he’s talking about, and (b) if so, can he construct a meaningful comparison to explain it to us?

    Pretty sure he fails on both counts, for reasons I and others have explained in detail.


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