BP – Give Scientists your Oil!

Hundreds of scientists met in New Orleans today and yesterday to come together on research priorities and explore potential for collaboration. There were 2 themes repeated frequently: BP is not releasing oil or dispersant to scientists for study and research dollars are not being distributed efficiently.Where is BP’s Oil? BP, once egregiously generous with their oil, has switched gears and is now being highly stingy. Scientists working on studying the effects of the oil do not have access to it; even scientists with BP research funding cannot actually get the oil to do the research. Time is running short. The fate of the oil and its impacts need to be studied now so another opportunity is not lost to increase our collective understanding about oil disasters as happened after Exxon Valdez.Show me the MoneyMany scientists looking to study the impacts of the disaster on the coastal and marine systems of the Gulfof Mexico are in a holding pattern waiting for research dollars. The $500 million BP promised for research is slow to get to local scientists. There is some good news for researchers, the National Science Foundation is on the scene and accepting Proposals: go to www.nsf.gov for more information on how to apply. Note that NSF has not accepted any money from BP or other commercial interests for research as they are concerned about the perception of unfavorable influence by the industry.Rare OpportunitiesScientists say that the oil is like a cancer to wetlands, and its killing the patient. Since it is not advisable to physically remove the oil as this procedure could do more harm than good, many scientists are recommending other kinds of processes that utilize the ecosystems’ natural ability to break down the oil. Called bio-rememdiation, some of these techniques could help wetlands in the long run. We strongly recommend that any remediation efforts consider how the process may enhance coastal restoration plans already in place.Casey DeMoss Roberts is the Assistant Director of Water Resources for the Gulf Restoration Network.

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