Major Media Too Lazy To Check Sources: Outdated Observations Passed On As “News”

It appears that major media outlets took reports based on old observations and passed it on to the public as breaking news last week.

H/T: Reader Dirk H.

Last week a number of major media outlets reported on how a large plume of oil had been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico, insisting that the BP oil spill was not naturally disappearing, as claimed by BP and US officials.

Well, it turns out that last week’s reports were based on oil plume observations made way back in June and junk science. Here are some of the headlines we saw last week in the land of angst, Germany:

Sueddeutsche Zeitung on August 18:
Scientists: 80% Of The Oil Is Still There
Der Spiegel on August 18;
Scientists Attack US Government’s Announcement That Worst Is Over
WDR5 German Radio on August 20:
Large Oil Cloud Beneath The Surface
Die Welt on August 21:
Platform Operator Accuses BP Of Cover-Up  and on August 20: 35 Kilometer Oil Slick

All these reports claimed that BP and officials were premature in calling off the emergency, and that the oil slick was far greater than the public was led to believe. There’s much more oil out there and the problem is still an environmental catastrophe, they all insisted last week.

What did these enviro-bedwetting journalists base their stories on?

They were based on a study by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute describing an undersea oil cloud observed June 19 to 28. Here’s the Wood Hole press release. These media outlets were too lazy to check out the source.

So is there still lots of oil out there? No.

The Washington Post wrote yesterday on a Study: Petroleum-eating microbes significantly reduced gulf oil plume that according to the newest findings by a team of scientists led by Terry C. Hazen of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, the oil plumes are today practically gone, and on how microbes and bacteria have…

…reduced the amount of oil amounts in the undersea “plume” by half about every three days, according to research published online Tuesday by the journal Science.

The Washington Post also mentions how the Woods Hole study was based on observations from June.  The WaPo writes:

In the Woods Hole study, scientists described finding an undersea oil cloud June 23 to 27 similar to the one Hazen and his colleagues found between May 25 and June 2 – which was similar to one found soon after by people from the Monterey√ Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

And so the mystery of the missing oil is explained:

The findings, by a team of scientists led by Terry C. Hazen of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, help explain one of the biggest mysteries a mystery of the disaster: Where has all the oil gone?

‘What we know about the degradation rates fits with what we are seeing in the last three weeks,’ Hazen said. “We’ve gone out to the sites, and we don’t find any oil, but we do find the bacteria.”

The oil is gone. The WaPo report also shows that the feared oxygen depletion catastrophe is also all hype:

One thing that many scientists feared – severe depletion of oxygen as microbes consumed the oil – apparently hasn’t happened. The Woods Hole study published last week found no decrease in oxygen in the oil plume, and the new study found only a slight one.

No plume could be found in the past three weeks, however. The oil that remains appears to be too diluted to be detected.

There it is folks. Another bout of incontinence by the German media. Listening to them last week, you’d think the Gulf of Mexico was sloshing with crude. Bad reporting is a great way to wrongly scare away tourists at a time the Gulf coast needs them the most.

3 responses to “Major Media Too Lazy To Check Sources: Outdated Observations Passed On As “News””

  1. Bruce of Newcastle

    Sulfate reducing bacteria are very fast when provided with enough food (ie oil).

    So fast they are used industrially (eg Budel smelter, Netherlands for effluent treatment), and can be fed with ethanol or even a hydrogen/CO2 mix.

    It is no surprise to me that the oil is mostly gone. Should be no surprise to anyone given the Ixtoc-1 oil spill in 1979 was very similar yet caused little or no lasting environmental effects. The common feature is the warm waters favour bacteria growth, which was not the case for the Exxon Valdez spill. Bugs do not like cold water.

  2. DirkH

    One of the Woods Hole researchers speaks up – he’s just as disappointed by the dismal quality of reporting as we are:

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/08/25/reddy.science.media/?hpt=C2

  3. R. de Haan

    Good post DirkH,
    I stumble on recycled news items myself on a regular basis.
    It’s an integral part of a strategy and we should worry about that for obvious reasons.
    From Gore Lied:
    “Environmentalist strategy revealed: ‘Endless pressure endlessly applied’”

    It’s nothing more but a propaganda campaign and all we can do is nail them to the wall.

    Thanks for publishing this.