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“The 5-minute ENERGY Blog POST 6: OIL, THE PLANT SMOOTHIE” by Tim Dunn

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Here’s the latest in a series on energy and the U.S. from Tim Dunn, CEO of Crown Quest Operating and board member of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Earlier posts can be found here.


We know that oil is organic, naturally-occurring, solar-packed biofuel. It’s from plants, so it’s green. Most oil and gas migrates from its source until it gets trapped and stored for our later use, or seeps out at the surface. Seeps happen a lot in the Gulf of Mexico, and many bugs depend on it for food.

That is why oil from the Mercado oil spill just disappeared; the bugs ate it. There are entire ecosystems around oil seeps. Oil is a sort of plant smoothie.

The Mercado spill was a human tragedy because of 11 lost lives. But most of the subsequent human tragedy was imposed by government policy.

But first let’s look at the spill from a bug’s perspective. For them, the Mercado spill was sort of like spilling a truck load of birdseed by the side of the road might look to a bird. It’s not good for people because it makes a huge mess and creates a lot of inconvenience, and perhaps a hazard. But the birds see an all you can eat buffet.

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A New York Times article notes the following quote:

“The gulf is such a great fishery because it’s fed organic matter from oil,” said Roger Sassen, a specialist on the cold seeps who recently retired from Texas A&M University. “It’s preadapted to crude oil. The image of this spill being a complete disaster is not true.”

The article notes that in the 1980’s scientists discovered “riots of healthy animals” living in the dark ocean nearby oil seeps. Of course you know that plants can’t live in the dark. But these ocean plants do. How?

These animals. including snails, crabs, eels, clams and tube worms more than six feet long, survive on a food chain with founding microbes that feed on seabed emissions including methane.

Yet another example of oil and gas being plant-based, stored sunlight. In this case, the stored sunlight in oil and gas provides the underlying energy to fuel an entire food chain. This process isn’t photosynthesis, but chemosynthesis.

A plant smoothie. Here’s a pic of the ocean floor where this happens:

Derk Bergquists

Natural seeps account for almost half of total releases of hydrocarbons into the ocean. Most of the rest are from such transportation-related activities as leaky pipes, tanker spills and cargo-hold washings.

But the rarest form of releases to the sea tend to make headlines – those associated with oil extraction, like the Mercado spill. Globally, that kind of release amounts to about 3 percent of the total.

Moving to the west coast, Science Daily reports that natural crude oil seeps in the Santa Barbra Channel amount to over 80 Exxon Valdez equivalents. And, you guessed it, most of it has been eaten by bugs.

So about half the oil leaked into the oceans is natural, and forms the bottom end of the food chain for ecosystems. Most of the rest is related to things like ships importing goods from China and other places. But the government and media emphasis is seemingly on the three percent from drilling.

It seems clear that the emphasis is related to the desire to gain control, not to serve the best interest of American citizens.

The propaganda associated with the campaign to take control of the food supply for our economy, our energy, is evidenced in this Science Daily article, where the entry into the food chain of the Mercado spill alongside the existing oil seeps is called “oil contaminations and pollutants.”

It is up to us as informed citizens to use our electoral powers to curb government expansion and retain our heritage of self-governance, and our choices relating to the “menu” of “food” for our economy.

And the subsequent human tragedy relating to the Mercado spill?

A January 2012 survey shows the immense irony of the Administration’s policies. Drilling in the Gulf has been impeded, and the primary victims are local residents. The study was released by Greater New Orleans, Inc, an organization focusing on creating jobs and wealth in the greater New Orleans region (wait, isn’t that what Congress does?). They found that local business has been devastated, with 41% of business unprofitable, 50% having laid off employees and 13% of business owners having lost all their personal savings.

The microbes are happy, the fish are happy, the residents suffer a government-sponsored economic catastrophe.

We need a “containment” strategy for “spills” of “contaminations and pollutions” into the human economy from Federal regulation.


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