Germs against oil.

WaPo and Slate give us the scoop on the Deepwater Horizon aftermath. Why was the Exxon Valdez so much more of a mess? Because the warm, murky Gulf of Mexico is germier:

But even if we halted human activity in the gulf, natural seeps from the sea floor would still send 42 million gallons of oil into gulf waters each year.

These seeps actually prevented the BP spill from being an even worse disaster. The gulf has more natural seeps than any other body of water in or around North America. Because of this constant supply of hydrocarbons, there is always a healthy population of bacteria floating around the gulf looking for more food. When BP’s well blew out, these tiny creatures went into a feeding frenzy.

Bacteria are far more reproductively agile (so to speak) than mammals, which take years to adjust their population size to changes in food supply. Within 24 hours of the spill, the number of oil-eating bacteria around the wellhead had grown tenfold.

It’s too soon to declare a happy, green ending to this story. We don’t really know how the chemicals that bacteria release after eating oil will affect human and animal health. Some of them are known to mimic testosterone and estrogen.

And, of course, the higher animals that aren’t so “reproductively agile” won’t quite be the same for generations even without the hormonal bacteria poop floating around there.