Gulf of Mexico Oil SpillJenn, John, Tanner, and Christina



Photos, and Timeline By: Jenn


Effects on Obama's Polls
The oil spill has had some effect on President Obama's approval ratings. Immediately following the oil spill, Obama's ratings of approval, were around forty-eight percent. Now, his ratings are down by about four percent, leaving his rate of approval around forty-four percent. This change was not caused directly by the oil spill, but rather the way the President has been handling the situation. As far as presidential approval and disapproval, the parties are fairly even. About sixty-one percent of Republicans disapprove of Obama's way of handling the oil spill situation, while about fifty-six percent of Democrats approve of it. The polls have not been effected to any major extent, because people do not really care, unless they are directly affected by the situation at hand.

Effects on the EconomyThe tourism, travel and the food industry have been harmed by the spill. The amount of oil in the gulf and around the coast, is making it unsafe for fishermen to fish for popular commodities, such as shrimp. Since this industry is at a halt, so is the amount of revenue. Also, tourists that would normally travel to these coastal regions have proceeded in changing their travel plans, being that the popular cuisine, as well as the beach destinations have been disrupted. Being that Florida is a $65.5 billion industry, Alabama is a $6 billion industry, and the gulf shrimp industry is totaled around $441.8 million industry, the revenue obtained is crucial to the economy of the United States. The country is already in a recession of sorts, and losing that amount of money would just cause a larger downward spiral. This loss of money has caused people to lose their jobs and that effects the opinion of the people and the outcome of the way that money is distributed.
Gas Prices
Gas prices were not effected by the oil spill when the incident first occurred, because drilling was still possible. As the relief effort continues and people try to find new ways to both get rid of the oil in the gulf and drill for more, off-shore drilling becomes more expensive. New rules, regulations, and safety precautions are causing the drilling to be more complex. For these safety reasons, drilling continues to become more and more expensive, which effects the price of gas. Safety precautions cause oil companies to pay more money for oil, which starts a domino effect and leaves the consumer to pay high prices on gas, in order to help cover the newly added costs. Although prices are increasing, the United States is able to keep them from rising too high, too fast.

Due to the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Congress has been able to amend legislation relating to protecting water and getting rid of pollution. Recently,provisions have been made to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. This act ensures that the government will provide money and other resources, crucial to dealing with the oil pollution as well as protecting the environment. Also, it states that both federal and sate governments can dictate the plans to resolve the problem. Some of the provisions made to this act, were to hold the party responsible for the oil pollution and force them to help pay for the damages in addition to the removal of the oil. In addition, there is the Clean Water Act, which ensures that no harmful materials will be used in the removal of the oil, in order to keep the water as clean as possible. Finally, there is the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010, which gave $94 million to oil spill related programs. These acts were all created or amended in order to protect the areas affected, as well as remove the oil in the most effective way possible.

The Influence of the Oil Spill on WildlifeBy John

The effects of oil on wild organisms and the ecosystems in which oil contamination take place are so extremely harmful that not only can it destroy wild life for the time being but it also can negatively impact organisms for decades after contamination. Oil causes great harm to wild life in ways such as physical contact, ingestion of oil, and absorption of oil by marine life. The oil that was seen floating on the surface of the gulf severely contaminates plankton. This includes algae, fish, fish eggs, and the larvae of many other creatures.
The long-term damage to contaminated area difficult to assess for two reasons. One being that the area contaminated is so incredibly large that it would be impossible to keep track of every animal that is in the area and two, because the amount of time it will take for the area to return back to a pre-contamination state will take decades. This will pose ecological risks and damage in the Gulf of Mexico for years and based upon the interference with the basic eating and living functions of thousands of species in the Gulf, organisms living in the ocean will most likely be affected from the oil coating an extremely large portion of the ocean floor.
Oil contamination will remain in an area long after a oil spill and have negative long-term impacts on fish and wildlife who live and feed in the contaminated area. The long-term effects on birds and marine mammals are less understood as a result of the rarity of such spills and also the migratory habits of many animals. However, it has been proven that oil ingestion can cause weakening of the immune system, changes in behavior, severe organ damage, and infection.
The damage is not limited to sea life, birds are exposed to oil as they float on the water o hunt for fish in the oil polluted water. When a bird is covered in oil, they lose the ability to fly and can ingest the oil while trying to clean themselves of the oil coat. Sea turtles are also impacted as they travel through the oil to get to a shore in order to reproduce. Turtle eggs may can be damaged if an adult with oil on it is to lie on the nest. Scavengers such as bald eagles, sea gulls, raccoons, and skunks are also exposed to oil by feeding on the dead bodies of fish and wildlife that were exposed to the oil.
The area contaminated by the gulf oil spill is home to one of the world's most productive marine and coastal ecosystems. Louisiana contains nearly 40% of the nation's coastal wetlands in its southern regions alone and these wetlands are home to a range of products and services, including controlling flood water, purification of the water systems, and acting as a barrier to help protect from violent storms and hurricanes. This area is also a renowned wildlife habitat, aquatic life nursery, and home to many recreational areas. Louisiana wetlands have been heavily degraded by human activity.
The layer of the ocean where the spill took place is a zone known as the Bathysphere. The immense depth of this water has pressure that reaches as high as160 atmospheres and temperatures that are in the single digits of the Celsius measurement system. This zone receives almost no sunlight and as a result there is only a small variety of bio-luminescent and soft muscled creatures that make up the very small population of this area.
Due to the natural mixing of the earths oceans, the oil will move vertically and therefore negatively influence all depths of the water in the Gulf region. This includes the shallower areas along shorelines and wetlands that contain millions of living organisms.
Scientist's familiar with the Gulf of Mexico cite a number of concerns about the timing of the spill. It was breeding season for many types of areas in the region and scientists say that, “it is virtually certain that billions of fish eggs and larvae died in the spill because the spawning season for many fish in the Gulf begins in April and runs into the summer.” The spill also fell right into migratory season where millions of birds cross the Gulf of Mexico and travel to the southern areas of the United States, specifically the Gulf region. The spill actually occurred near the peak of the “Trans-Gulf Migration Season” and many of the negative impacts discussed earlier about birds exposed to oil were bound to take place in record numbers. That time of the year is also hurricane season and a large enough storm would have been able to completely halt recovery and cleanup efforts and spread oil to part of the region that hadn’t been influenced by the spill."Widespread impacts on wildlife were observed beginning the week of May 16. By May 24, 2010 two rookeries for brown pelicans in Barataria Bay showed signs that oil had breached the protective booms. By the first week of June, reports of death and injury to birds, sea turtles and dolphins were rising sharply across the Louisiana coast."

Cleaning Up the Spill and the Science of the SpillBy Tanner

In April of 2010 oil began spilling into the Gulf of Mexico killing the ecosystem and taking a toll on the American economy. In response to this tragedy people were jumping at the prospect of providing BP with a solution to the leak. Many of these ideas were farfetched and lacking scientific proof that they were even in the least bit feasible. However, mixed in with these unrealistic ideas were a few scholarly suggestions that were considered by BP. One of these ideas was created by a man by the name of Raymond Lovell who proposed that they use a well cap with a retractable top to relieve the pressure that would occur if a well cap with a regular lid was used. Lovell believed that by using a larger version of his cap the lid could then slowly be closed. Some people suggested the use of oil eating bacteria while others argued that their chemical that hardens oil while protecting the quality of the water was the way to go. The problem with the chemical idea was that there would need to be the same amount of chemical as there was oil, a whole lot of it. One of the four ideas strongly considered by BP was created by none other than actor Kevin Costner. This may sound rather odd at first but actually Costner has been collaborating and funding a company by the name of Ocean Therapy Solutions for the past 15 years in hopes of devising a machine that could clean up oil spills of this magnitude. The basic explanation of the machine is that it separates oil from water and dumps the oil into a holding tank. These machines are apparently able to cleanse up to 210,000 gallons of water in one day leaving the water 99% free of any impurities. Costner claims that the largest of their machines can clean up to 200 gallons of water per minute which is over 50 gallons faster than the leak itself.
As the cleanup process continues it is clear that mother nature is playing her role in the cleanup as well. Initially the oil was hit with dispersants in order to speed up the deterioration process however these chemicals were of little significance compared to the treatment given by nature. Oil that managed to make it to the water’s surface was initially broken up by the 88 degree water, followed by the intense 100 degree baking provided by the sun, then being eaten away by microbes, and if still together broken apart by the waves and the wind. As time passes the amount of oil present becomes less and less due in part to the efforts made by the cleanup crews but not without nature contribution.

Above: Diagram of Kevin Costner & OTS's water cleansing machine.
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Furthermore, the science and math concepts lurking behind the spill are abundant so it is important that some of them be pointed out at this time. To begin it is necessary to understand why oil floats atop water, an essential aspect of spill cleanup. Oil is constructed of long chain hydrocarbon molecules which would lead you to believe that it is more dense than water however, water if a polar molecule that forms hydrogen bonds with other surrounding molecules making it more closely packed and giving it a greater mass. Since p=m/v with as mass increases so does density. Oil is non-polar and therefore oil molecules tend to want to stay away from one another. This means that oil is less tightly packed and it appears as less dense than water. Since water is denser than oil the oil floats on top of the water. This concept description is a combination of chemistry and physics. As far as math is concerned, an oil spill can be viewed in terms of calculus as one big related rates problem. If the a the diameter, length, what have you of the constantly increasing oil atop the water is observed as well as the thickness of the shape then the amount of oil leaking from the pipe can be estimated. Since oil tends to spread out fairly evenly in a thin viscous layer the thickness can be considered constant. This means that the only thing changing is the cross sectional area of the crude shape. It is important to know the amount of oil flowing out of the pipe in order to guestimate how much oil is being lost and how much oil will need to be cleaned up if the spill continues at this rate.

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As the environment becomes more and more polluted and effected by the oil, the people of the United States start to take part in the process of being a good citizen. While most normally sit back and observe what is going on in the world around them, others take the initiative and choose to make a difference. Because the ocean, as well as gas prices, was majorly effected by the oil spill, people started to vote and take part in the gallop polls. These polls have shown that when the environment is effected, people tend to vote more. The environment is directly linked to the everyday lives of the American people. If the environment is effected, then so are many things in life, for example gas prices and government spending. This type of cause and effect leads people to take part in the government, because they are affected by it and are able to have an educated opinion on it, rather than an uneducated opinion on a topic that the people do not care about or even know about.