A good reader sent the following:
In response to which, one should also point out what many people still don’t know: namely, that nature alone, apart from man, “spills” far more oil than all the world’s oil companies combined. For example:
Oil residue in seafloor sediments that comes from natural petroleum seeps off Santa Barbara, Calif., is equivalent to between 8 to 80 Exxon Valdez oil spills, according to a new study by researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Oil content of sediments is highest closest to the seeps and tails off with distance, creating an oil fallout shadow. The amount of oil in the sediments down current from the seeps is the equivalent of approximately 8 to 80 Exxon Valdez oil spills, the study said.
WHOI marine chemist Chris Reddy said Chris Farwell, the lead author of a paper on the subject and at the time an undergraduate working with UCSB’s Dave Valentine, “developed and mapped out our plan for collecting sediment samples from the ocean floor. After conducting the analysis of the samples, we were able to make some spectacular findings.”
There is an oil spill everyday at Coal Oil Point (COP), the natural seeps off Santa Barbara, where 20-25 tons of oil have leaked from the seafloor each day for the last several hundred thousand years.
Earlier research by Reddy and Valentine at the site found microbes were capable of degrading a significant portion of the oil molecules as they traveled from the reservoir to the ocean bottom, and that once the oil floated to sea surface, about 10% of the molecules evaporated within minutes.
“One of the natural questions is: What happens to all of this oil?” Valentine said. “So much oil seeps up and floats on the sea surface. It’s something we’ve long wondered. We know some of it will come ashore as tar balls, but it doesn’t stick around. And then there are the massive slicks. You can see them, sometimes extending 20 miles from the seeps. But what really is the ultimate fate?”