Yet another study says the oil IS broken down

I admit that I have no idea what is going on with the oil in the gulf.  The latest scientific findings keep changing:

A week after a high-profile paper suggested that the vast Deepwater Horizon oil plume could linger for months, another study claims bacteria are breaking the oil down quickly, and that the plume is likely gone.

The conflict between the results are striking. Other researchers warn that there’s just too little data to draw any conclusions. But the new findings are at least encouraging.

“We saw the same plume they did,” said Terry Hazen, an ecologist and oil spill specialist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, whose research is funded in part by BP. “We found that very large proportions of genes from water in the plume have the ability to produce enzymes that break down the oil.”

As with last week’s study, Hazen’s involved samples taken from the deep-sea oil plume that in late June was 22 miles long, one mile wide and 650 feet thick, and was published in Science.

The previous study, led by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, found few signs microbial activity around the oil. From those measurements, it seemed that months would pass before bugs broke down the oil.

The WHOI team didn’t look directly at bacteria in the water, but used oxygen depletion — caused by bugs multiplying and going into metabolic overdrive while eating — as a sign of their activity.

By contrast, Hazen’s team extracted microbial DNA from plume water samples, sequenced the genes and identified their functions. Many of the genes produce enzymes that break down some of the compounds in crude oil.

The researchers also identified a previously-unknown strain of ostensibly oil-gobbling Oceanospirillum that doesn’t consume oxygen. Its activity would have gone unnoticed by the WHOI team.

“That particular species becomes dominant in the plume. It out competes some of the other bacteria that are normally present. It can break down the oil quite well,” said Hazen, who noted that the Gulf’s deep-sea microbes have evolved to handle crude oil that seeps naturally from the seafloor.

When Hazen’s team put oil samples in a laboratory setup designed to mimic Gulf conditions, it had a half-life of between one and six days. And according to Hazen, the researchers have found no sign of the plume in the last three weeks, suggesting its breakdown.

via Oil-Gobbling Bug Raises Gulf Hopes … for Now | Reuters.

This study has its critics too.  But their bottom line is that we just don’t know.

Evangelical college picks Catholic President

The King’s College has selected Dinesh D’Souza as its new president.  The New York City school, which is housed in the Empire State Building, was founded by Campus Crusade for Christ and is a conservative evangelical college–a pretty good one, I might add.  The thing is, Mr. D’Souza, a popular conservative author and think tank scholar, is a Roman Catholic.  Do you think an evangelical college can have a Catholic president?  Can a  college be “Christian” in a sense that can embrace both Protestantism and Catholicism?  Would the Catholics deny that the Protestants are members of the Church, and the Protestants deny that the Catholics have faith in the Gospel?  Or is this a great idea whose time has come?

I wish the best for Mr. D’Souza and the college, where WORLD editor Marvin Olasky is the Provost.  Do you think this rather bold experiment will work?

Student Loan scandal update

Yesterday we blogged about the Washington Post’s dependence on income from its ownership of Kaplan, whose for-profit-universities are being accused of defrauding the government.  tODD points out that its universities are only part of the Kaplan empire, doing the math to show that the percentage of the Post’s income from the colleges and from the taxpayers is smaller than the 62% I cited.  Meanwhile, in another case of surprising readers of this blog, one of the original litigators who helped expose the corruption at Kaplan, Mike Aguirre, wrote in.  You need to read his post in the comments.  It tells about how Kaplan officials were caught destroying diplomas of “phantom students” who didn’t really exist, but who apparently were made up by the university just to get student loans.  Mr. Aguirre also noted the staggering sums that flowed into Kaplan from the Title IV student loan plan:

> Finally, I would like to note the following amounts of Title IV funds paid to Kaplan in addition to those identified in the operative complaint.
> In 2005 Kaplan derived more than $500 million of its revenues from Title IV funds. In 2006 Kaplan derived $580 million of its revenues from Title IV funds. In 2007 Kaplan Title IV revenue was $745 million, or approximately 73%, of total KHE revenues. In 2008 Title IV funds accounted for $904 million, or approximately 71%, of total KHE revenues. During 2009 Title IV funds accounted for $1.283 billion million, or approximately 83%, of KHE revenues.

Obama’s stem cell policy overturned

President Obama’s stem cell policy allows human embryos to be destroyed so their stem cells can be “harvested.”  But a federal court has overturned that policy:

A U.S. district court issued a preliminary injunction on Monday stopping federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, in a slap to the Obama administration’s new guidelines on the sensitive issue.

The court ruled in favor of a suit filed in June by researchers who said human embryonic stem cell research involved the destruction of human embryos.

Judge Royce Lamberth granted the injunction after finding the lawsuit would likely succeed because the guidelines violated law banning the use of federal funds to destroy human embryos.

“(Embryonic stem cell) research is clearly research in which an embryo is destroyed,” Lamberth wrote in a 15-page ruling. The Obama administration could appeal his decision or try to rewrite the guidelines to comply with U.S. law.

The suit against the National Institutes of Health, backed by some Christian groups opposed to embryo research, argued the NIH policy violated U.S. law and took funds from researchers seeking to work with adult stem cells.

via U.S. court rules against Obama’s stem cell policy | Reuters.

There is still oil in the Gulf after all

We earlier blogged about how the oil that gushed out of that BP well in the Gulf appeared to be gone, having been broken down by natural processes.  That was the line from the Obama administration.  But now scientists are finding that the oil, indeed, is out there:

The oil is there, at least 22 miles of it. You just can’t see it.

A lot of the crude that spewed from BP’s ruptured well is still in the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s far below the surface and invisible. And it’s likely to linger for months on end, scientists said Thursday in the first conclusive evidence of an underwater plume of oil from the disaster.

The plume consists of droplets too small for the eye to see, more than a half-mile down, said researchers who mapped it with high-tech sensors.

Scientists fear it could be a threat to certain small fish and crustaceans deep in the ocean. They will have plenty of time to study it for answers.

In the cold, 40-degree water, the oil is degrading at one-tenth the pace at which it breaks down at the surface. That means “the plumes could stick around for quite a while,” said Ben Van Mooy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, a co-author of the research, published online in the journal Science.

Earlier this month, top federal officials declared the oil in the spill was mostly “gone,” and it is gone in the sense that you can’t see it. But the chemical ingredients of the oil persist, researchers found.

Monty Graham, a scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama who was not involved in the new research, said: “We absolutely should be concerned that this material is drifting around for who knows how long. They say months in the (research) paper, but more likely we’ll be able to track this stuff for years.”

via Major study proves oil plume that’s not going away.

Well, I don’t think that even the most optimistic scientists believed the oil literally ceased to exist, violating the law of the conservation of matter.  If the oil now exists only as microscopic dots widely diffused and dispersed, detectable only by high-tech instruments, I’d say that is pretty much what “breaking down” means.  And it’s hard to imagine how oil in this form would be all that harmful, since it’s the sludge that’s so bad for the environment, individual molecules of oil being nothing but carbon.  You’d think environmentalists would be happy that the environment is not being devastated as predicted, but they seem strangely disappointed.  They assume nature is so fragile that man can destroy it, playing down its self-renewing power.  But OK, I’ll admit that the jury is out.  Maybe this will turn into an eco-catastrophe after all.

Three varieties of conservatism

Here are three different political ideologies that go by the name of “conservatism.”  The definitions and descriptions are taken from the first paragraph of their Wikipedia entries.  (You might want to read the rest of the entries.)  Which is better?  And how can advocates of these three possibly work together?

Paleoconservatism (sometimes shortened to paleo or paleocon when the context is clear) is a term for an anti-communist and anti-imperialist political philosophy in the United States stressing tradition, civil society and anti-federalism, along with religious, regional, national and Western identity.  Chilton Williamson, Jr. describes paleoconservatism as “the expression of rootedness: a sense of place and of history, a sense of self derived from forebears, kin, and culture—an identity that is both collective and personal.”  Paleoconservatism is not expressed as an ideology and its adherents do not necessarily subscribe to any one party line.

via Paleoconservatism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Neoconservatism is a political philosophy that emerged in the United States of America, and which supports using modern American economic and military power to bring liberalism, democracy, and human rights to other countries.[1][2][3] Consequently the term is chiefly applicable to certain Americans and their strong supporters. In economics, unlike paleoconservatives and libertarians, neoconservatives are generally comfortable with a welfare state; and, while rhetorically supportive of free markets, they are willing to interfere for overriding social purposes.

via Neoconservatism

Libertarianism is advocacy for individual liberty[1] with libertarians generally sharing a distinct regard for individual freedom of thought and action, as well as a strong suspicion of coercive authority, such as that of government. However, there are also broad areas of disagreement among libertarians. Broad distinctions such as left-libertarianism and right-libertarianism have been identified. Additionally, some distinguish between minarchist and varying anarchist views (such as the libertarian socialist and anarcho-capitalist views) of libertarianism.

via Libertarian

HT:  A comment from Cincinnatus gave me the idea for this