Federal Scientists: Guarded Optimism on Oil Spill

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

The overall mood at the White House yesterday was upbeat with the news that there’s seemingly less of a risk of ecological impacts of oil and that the well is about to be shut down for good. “There is a negligible amount of oil at the surface,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Jane Lubchenco in a conference with reporters, adding that repeated scientific cruises have failed to find any on the floor of the ocean—or in the Florida Keys, as feared.

“This is very good news. Many of the doomsday scenarios have not and will not come to fruition,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. While the daily press conference sometimes lasts 20 minutes or less, today’s ran for nearly 2 hours as the Obama Administration sought to get the word out on the conditional good news.

Lubchenco smiled and nodded slowly when a reporter asked if the “oil clouds” were lifting within the Administration. But echoing concerns from federal and independent scientists about the fate of the oil in the water column, she said, “The oil that is in tiny droplets may be toxic. … We do remain concerned about the oil in the subsurface." She added, “Effects of this spill will likely linger for decades,” although she said that it could take a long time to quantify those effects.

Posted in Climate gulf oil spill, oil fate