General Question

robmandu's avatar

Is there any positive ecological effect possible from the Gulf oil spill?

Asked by robmandu (21285points) May 14th, 2010

Oil is a natural byproduct that occurs after heat and pressure have been applied to organic materials over a long period of time. As such, it’s occurrence in the environment isn’t unprecented, even before man got around to drilling it up and burning it.

I ask because volcanic eruptions are mighty and terrible events much like the oil spill underway in the Gulf of Mexico right now. They spew ash and noxious gases for thousands of miles. And yet, the grounds around volcanoes are often extremely fertile. In that way, the volcano’s eruption ultimately leads to a positive effect, albeit at the price of gruesome short-term damage.

So, since one could make the case that volcanoes are good for the Earth, I was wondering if the same would be true for petroleum? Are there any flora or fauna that might be positively impacted, even if it’s years from now?

I’m just curious. In no way should anyone interpret this question or anyone’s answers to it as justification in support of BP, Halliburton, their contractors, regulatory offices, or any one else that’s culpable for the events we see happening in the Gulf today and for weeks (months?) to come.

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14 Answers

jfos's avatar

Good question. I wonder if the spilled oil is different than natural, fresh-out-of-the-ground oil. If so, the question would fundamentally change, because the oil wouldn’t be a naturally occurring product as-is.

Check this out.

marinelife's avatar

No. There is no good that comes from it in the short term. In natural form in the environment it would be in pools on the ground not spewed all over a body of water.

CMaz's avatar

It will bring people together. Hopefully coming to a solution. Mankind is always at its best when there is adversity.

earthduzt's avatar

I’ll bet if I put a tiny drop of raw crude in one of my reef tanks it would nuke the entire tank. Sea life is very sensitive to chemical changes in the water the slightest disturbance in water chemistry will disrupt the balance and kill off many species starting with the smallest first then when the small dies the big starts to follow. So, no I don’t think any positive ecological good can come from oil gushing into the ocean but as @ChazMaz said hopefully it will bring people together to find a solution quick, and maybe it will take a disaster such as this to start thinking of a new energy source.

skfinkel's avatar

I wish there was something good that could come of this. But, looks just like an enormous catastrophe to me. Perhaps if new rules are set in place not only for oil digging, but also for nuclear plants, maybe we can avoid a disaster in that arena in the future. And, if we the people begin thinking about our gas guzzling ways and think about changing them, who knows. But as far as the ecology, the fish, mammals, air, everything so dirty and polluted—nothing good and so very sad.

laureth's avatar

Well, instead of fouling up the atmosphere by being burnt in cars, it just fouls up the water. Other than that, I can’t think of a single benefit. Oil doesn’t naturally come up in such a gusher. There are oil seeps, but those are much smaller in scale. This stuff doesn’t belong on the surface.

Fred931's avatar

I’m right here, and I can’t say that this oil can possibly be a good thing. It hasn’t become a problem yet either, though; air quality is perfect, and only a couple of globs have hopped over the boom near Venice, LA. In fact, there is still some tourism along the coast here.

lilikoi's avatar

No I see no positive effects from the human perspective or life as we know it today.

“Oil is a natural byproduct that occurs after heat and pressure have been applied to organic materials over a long period of time. As such, it’s occurrence in the environment isn’t unprecented, even before man got around to drilling it up and burning it.”

It is true that oil occurs naturally. However, it does not get pumped up out of the ground and into oceans and on to land surfaces by natural means. That stuff is buried deep in the Earth where birds and fish do not live and it cannot contaminate our land and water based ecosystems.

“I ask because volcanic eruptions are mighty and terrible events much like the oil spill underway in the Gulf of Mexico right now. They spew ash and noxious gases for thousands of miles. And yet, the grounds around volcanoes are often extremely fertile. In that way, the volcano’s eruption ultimately leads to a positive effect, albeit at the price of gruesome short-term damage.”

I don’t really agree with the analogy. Volcanoes to me are a completely different beast. Volcanic eruptions do occur naturally whereas oil spills are man-induced.

I don’t know a whole lot about volcanology, but at least at the one where I live, the grounds are not fertile around it. Wherever the lava flows, everything in its path dies, and the ground is covered in layers of very hard rock (very expensive to drill through). Eventually this turns into fertile land, but that’s not until the volcano is inactive.

“So, since one could make the case that volcanoes are good for the Earth, I was wondering if the same would be true for petroleum? Are there any flora or fauna that might be positively impacted, even if it’s years from now?”

It doesn’t really matter if volcanoes are good for the Earth or not because they exist and we cannot control them. If there were too many volcanoes erupting, perhaps everything would die and oceans would cease to exist (hypothetically speaking). Immediately, oil spills are absolutely NOT good for the Earth. Perhaps if we kept spilling oil over a long period of time some sort of life form would see a niche and thrive at the expense of a LOT of other species, including ourselves. I guess this would be a positive thing if you happen to be that niche specie. It would be a very negative thing for you and I.

Qingu's avatar

Less oil for humans to burn = less greenhouse gases.

That’s about all I got.

Bagardbilla's avatar

There may be species dying out in mass quantaties as we speak… However, some within those species may be adopting /evolving (by activating latent genes) to cope with huge quantaties of hydro-carbons in the enviroment. This process does take a long time though, so we may not see the affects of it in human time.

LostInParadise's avatar

As far as I know there are no natural decomposers of oil. We seem to be the only species that can make use of it. It seems a bit odd, since oil is such a concentrated source of energy.

mattbrowne's avatar

The evolution of oil-resistant sea creatures?

CMaz's avatar

Oil-eating bacteria.

But, is that a natural occurrence or man made?

mattbrowne's avatar

The original oil-eating bacteria are natural. Now there’s a huge potential for them to evolve. Maybe turn into sea monsters eating away the metal supporting other oil platforms. Be fertile and multiply.

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