Oil Spill and Rush Limbaugh


I hate to see a smart guy like you falling for the mass media tripe and lies about Rush Limbaugh. If you actually listened to his program, you’d have heard that he said almost exactly what you’ve said. This includes the fact the the spill is a disaster that needs our attention. His major point was that the panic about the oil spill destroying the Gulf of Mexico was wrong, that the Gulf was very capable of taking care if itself. Which is essentially what you are saying.

We need to do what we can to help nature take care of the problem as soon as possible, but there is no need to spread panic about the gulf as a whole. He also mentioned, in regard to the Gulf as a whole, that if the leak continued unabated until August that it would have leaked the amount of oil into the Gulf that was equal to one millionth of an ounce of oil in a bathtub full of water.

I have not checked the accuracy of this statement. … However, try to be as accurate in your comments about what others have said as you are in your answers.

Brad Fregger

LINK TO COLUMN: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2943/did-nature-clean-up-most-of-the-exxon-valdez-oil-spill

Is it going to “destroy” the Gulf . . . no. Is it going to kill a whole bunch of animals and leave a lot of fishermen in a pretty bad spot? Yes.

And I think the latter is what most people really are worried about.

The Gulf is patently not capable of taking care of itself. There is already a sizable dead zone due to run-off from the Mississippi Basin, and that’s before any effects of the oil spill are factored in.

And it’s not as if, as the letter writer says, the Alaskan coast is back to its “pre-spill pristine condition” following the Exxon Valdez disaster - there are still an estimated 20,000 gallons of oil lying in pockets under the beach sand across the region. And that doesn’t take into account the effects on local wildlife:

But hey! It’s just a few turtles, right?

As tim says, the Gulf will still be there and there will still be marine life in it (albeit less than before). But Limbaugh’s hand-waving away of the very real effects of this is entirely disingenuous.

And I hope you aren’t a big fan of shrimp - supplies will be scarce and pricy for a while.

Cecil read the entire transcript of the program in question. If in fact Rush Limbaugh is doing creative editing of his transcripts which causes them to differ from what he says on the radio, that’s another problem entirely.

A link to the column.

The OP’s defense notwithstanding, Rush’s comments cannot stand. They are either wrong or grossly misleading in a variety of ways.

  1. The original statement was made very early on. The leak is known to be worse now.

  2. The new statement about the leak continuing until August is sheer demagoguery. Try making that comparison about any natural disaster. “The amount of material in that meteor is one-millionth the size of a mountain!” You would rightly be laughed out of town.

  3. The amount of oil is far larger than the Exxon Valdez, the dispersal is greater, and the source is deeper. That is not insignificant. If deep water plumes of oil are developing as scientists claim, then the total amount of damage to the environment will be an order of magnitude larger. Rush doesn’t address that at all.

  4. Short-term damage is not the same as long-term recovery. The gulf coast is a bigger economy than the shores of Alaska. It was already hurt by Katrina. Perception is a large part of tourism, which is a major business. The size and mass of the short term hurt will again be orders of magnitude larger than in Alaska.

Those are just the major problems. You can add that natural seepage is so dispersed as to be irrelevant to a concentrated spill, that the “whole Gulf” hardly matters if two-thirds of fishing grounds are closed, that marsh lands are a far more vulnerable ecosystem than Alaskan beaches, that…

That you could on all day explaining why Rush was embarrassingly wrong. I wish Cecil had done a better job but I’ve called him out on science before and I’m sure I’ll do so again. Not that his comments on bioremediation are wrong but that concentrating on that aspect misses the more immediate issues.

Are you challenging what Rush has said, or supporting him? It’s difficult to tell since you keep repeating what he said, but with a challenging tone.

There is no doubt that there are problems that we can help with. But the ENTIRE Gulf of Mexico is not in danger. The problem with blowing this out of proportion is that we get so concerned about the “big picture” that we lose sight of what we can and should do.

For example, Obama should override the Jones Act, which requires that all workers on the oil spill must be union members. This means that many ships, etc. from other countries can’t be involved, that only American ships with union members can do the work. This is crazy in a situation like this. And it begs the question, “Why aren’t you concerned about that?” It seems to me that your great concern for the Gulf and the people who live and work there, would be demanding that everything possible be done.

Also, there are plenty of companies and individuals that have ideas on how to take care of the oil. While many of these ideas probably won’t work, shouldn’t all of them be tried? Additionally, any oil they get rid of, would be oil we wouldn’t have to worry about. Of course, there’s concerns about the unintended consequences … but, to be honest, my major concern is for the unintended consequences of any government actions. For example, stopping all oil producing activity in the gulf because of this spill.

Obama states, that it’s just until we figure out what went wrong. I believe that we still don’t know what went wrong with the 1979 Mexico spill … are we going to wait that long … destroy all of those jobs … become that much more dependent on foreign oil. By the way, as Cecil said, the 1979 spill was a much bigger problem for a number of reasons. However, the gulf did pretty much clean itself up.

So … If I interpreted your tone correctly … Your challenging a fantasy image and not the truth. Rush, and I, agree with you … everything possible must be done. That is our complaint about this administration: They are not doing everything possible, they are playing politics with our coastline and the people who depend on it and the jobs that are dependent on oil.

What part of “Rush was embarrassingly wrong” is ambiguous?

No, the ENTIRE Gulf is not in danger. Just all the parts of it that touch the US. And quite a lot of other parts.

Yes, union rules are the big problem here [<-sarcasm, since you seem to have difficulty gauging tone].

No, because most of them will hinder the efforts that actually work and some could exacerbate the situation.

You have some very strange priorities.

You have not interpreted anyone’s tone correctly. Exapno has very carefully addressed Rush’s various ACTUAL comments and pointed out where and why they are wrong. You seem to be missing that.


If Cecil read the entire transcript, he missed the many comments that Rush made about the fact that this was a major catastrophe and that Obama was playing politics with the spill.

In addition, it was obvious from his comments that Rush was talking about the lack of danger to the entire Gulf. Again, he and Cecil were in very great agreement on this issue. I admit that I didn’t read the entire transcript … as far as I can see it isn’t available. I listened to the program and there was no doubt that he was talking about the ENTIRE gulf not being in danger and that the Obama administration isn’t doing all that it can.

He believes that the Obama administration likes the crisis, that “no crisis should be wasted.” And that they are using the photos of the disaster and resultant publicity to push through cap and trade … which, if passed, will be a disaster for the American people.

I suspect that Cecil’s opinion of Rush clouded his judgement, or that he was shown selected portions of the transcript that gave the wrong impression. An impression that was not left with those of us who listened to the program.

“For every person with a spark of genius, there are hundreds with an ignition problem” -Coffee News(6/9/10

Yeah, but as Rush so eloquently put it, “so what?”

Fark.com has added a link to the column, with an “Interesting” tag, with the description: “Cecil Adams takes on a Rush Limbaugh talking point. ‘Will the oil spill clean itself up?’ The answer may surprise you. It won’t surprise Rush, though”

The Gulf of Mexico will recover. It might take five years, ten years, 100 years. Sooner or later, the oil will be broken, the toxic compounds will disperse, and the animal life will recover. Life takes a very long term view. Maybe someday man will drive himself into extinction, and in a million years, there will nary be a trace left of our stewardship. Some intelligent alien life will land on this planet and be amazed at the fact that no sentient being ever evolved here while they look out at a pristine Gulf of Mexico.

The problem is I don’t really want to wait that long.

By the way, I read Cecil’s column not as a tribute to the clear thinking of Rush, but to the fact that once we caused such a problem, we really are incapable of cleaning up the mess. Rush is saying, so who cares about a few turtles? Drill and damn the consequences. Cecil is saying you break it, and you’re not going to be able to fix it.

It seems to me that there is an inherent danger in the simplistic concept that “nature will handle it, so we don’t need to do anything or worry about it.” The same could be applied to most environmental issues – nature (over the long run) would handle it, and so what if a few dozen species go extinct? What’s wrong with littering, even non-degradable stuff, it’ll get buried after a few hundred years or so? What’s wrong with just dumping atomic waste in the rivers, it’ll get absorbed after few thousand years, and so what if several species are wiped out or genetic mutations accelerated? For that matter, why bother to have a fire department – an apartment building burns down, nature will handle it.


Yes, and nature will deal with us too–eventually. The only point I disagree with in the above is the point about radioactive waste. The half-lives of some of the wastes is measured in the millions of years. Of course, they are not the most radioactive of them. Plutonium, with a half-life of 24,000 years, is extremely poisonous. There is a new design, called a standing wave reactor that I recently read about that could solve a lot of the problems if it works as hoped.

Damn! I don’t know what it is about you “American chappies”, and your obsession with oil…

Hell, you’ll invade another country to get and control it, but when it’s delivered to your door, free of charge, you moan like hell!

I’m not sure if this should be a separate post…but its on the same column…

When oil ‘breaks down’ or otherwise appears to go away by any of the means described in the column…excatly what does it turn into? Is it something truly benign or does it just add more to the carbon footprint, greenhouse gases, or something like that?

So, does the harm go away or just manifest itself in another (bad) form???

This issue really makes me wonder about the cognitive ability of certain sections of our society (CSS).

CSS: Drill, baby, drill!

Admin: All right, already! :rolleyes: We’ll drill.

Disaster ensues.


Admin: OK, while we’re trying to stop this disaster we’re going to put a moratorium on new wells for six months so that we can be sure that they won’t blow out too.

CSS: NOOOOOO!!! Just because it happened once doesn’t mean it can happen again! We want our oil, and our jobs! And clean up this mess NOW! We want our fish!

Admin: We are trying to clean up the mess, and we’re requiring the responsible parties to pay for it.

CSS: You can’t do that! What about the investors?

Admin: When someone invests in a business, they’re taking a risk. Their investments may skyrocket, or they may plummet. If a company fails in its responsibilities, they must make compensation and investors lose money. It’s called a ‘Free Market’.

CSS: No way. A Free Market means we invest and make loads of money. If we lose money, then it’s because of the Socialists. We shouldn’t have to pay for the mistakes the company we own a part of.

Admin: Well, who do you think should pay? The government, and thus the taxpayer? :dubious:

CSS: NO TAXES! The People shouldn’t have to pay! The company shouldn’t have to pay because we’re investors and that means we pay. There can’t be a government bailout because we’re taxpayers and that means we have to pay.

Admin: So if they company shouldn’t pay, and the taxpayer shouldn’t pay (and I agree with you that taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook), who should take responsibility?

CSS: Not us! Just make it go away!

Admin: And how do we do that? We’re doing what we can already.

CSS: How should I know? I’m just a fisherman and my family are just oil workers. You guys are the so-called ‘experts’! We want our oil and our jobs and our fish and our money! YOU fix it!

And so on…

I for one am getting pretty dang sick of everybody constantly disparaging Rush Limbaugh—Has everyone forgotten about his brave, even heroic military service in Vietnam, his non-stop charity work advocating treatment and compassion for fellow drug addicts, the tireless work he has put in advancing the improvement of American race relations, or the time he finished second in the truth-telling contest three towns over???

. . . With much snippage.

The problem is, the CSSs you’re quoting are different CSSs, not the same schizophrenic people. An analogy I read once likened the government playing a game of checkers. A passerby comes up, puts a finger on one of the pieces, and says, “You can do what you want; just don’t move this piece.” That’s fine until another person comes up and says the same thing, and another, and another until the whole board is paralyzed by people “only” looking out for their own little piece of the board and unwilling to compromise.

To quote “Joshua” . . . “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”

cleaning up the oil still doesn’t account for the damage to the ecosystem with the die offs of the larger animals. (turtles, birds, otters, are SOL left to Nature.) Which breaks the cycles of the area’s ecosystem for a LONG time.

so YES, nature will clean up the mess, EVENTUALLY, but the gulf MAY NEVER be the same as it was… (the loss of one species from an ecosystem CAN make a huge difference in whether or not that particular ecosystem can continue functioning.)

Adding fertilizer to a body of water, and causing an algae/bacteria bloom can also be a BAD thing. They can also cause die offs of the plants further down by blocking sunlight… and hog nutrients that are used by plankton and other forms of microscopic, or even just “damn tiny” life forms.

If similar algae & bacterial blooms occur in smaller bodies of water (possibly even something as large as one of the Great Lakes, but that would take a bit longer) you get something called “Eutrophism” where things like agricultural run off causes a temporary algae/bacterial bloom, a sudden die off of other things in the water. Then a sudden die off of the algae & bacteria, till the former pond, small lake becomes a marsh, a bog, and later solid dry land. This is sometimes part of a natural long term process, but this is also why raw sewage/farm run off (Into the Great Lakes as well as smaller lakes/rivers/ponds) is an issue… because THIS run off makes that natural process happen much MUCH more quickly.