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BP makes plugging progress; 75% of oil has dispersed

Ships work near the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: BP says it is making progress plugging its busted Gulf oil well. Now the Obama administration is set to announce the damage from the oil could be less than originally feared. The New York Times reports the government will announce today that roughly three-quarters of the oil has already dispersed. Here to tell us more is Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman joining us live. Good morning, Mitchell.

Mitchell Hartman: Good morning, Bill.

Radke: How does today's report square with all the oil we've seen in photos from the Gulf? Where did it all go?

Hartman: Well, if the government scientists are right -- and remember they were pretty wrong at the beginning of all this when they underestimated the oil leak -- but what they now think is about 75 percent of the oil has been captured by those skimmers and booms we saw, or burned off or evaporated, or broken up by bacteria and the action of the seawater. Now, a lot of that's due to the massive effort to clean up the oil as it was leaking. But Peter Kemp of Petroleum Intelligence Weekly in London told me Mother Nature also deserves a lot of credit:

Peter Kemp: The warm waters of the Gulf are very conducive to microbial action. It's extremely light, fine quality oil that breaks down very quickly. And the contrast obviously is with the Exxon Valdez disaster, which was heavier oil in freezing waters.

Radke: Well Mitchell, this sounds like good news. Does it mean the environmental impact is gonna be less severe?

Hartman: Well, that's a harder question to answer, it's still early days. You know, roughly a quarter of the oil is still hanging around -- it's on the surface as a light sheen, it's floating around in tarballs, a lot of it's probably buried in the sand or sediments. A big question is going to be how much damage that the oil has already done to marine life. The impact on the environment, and in particular the fishing business, could . . . will last well into the future.

Radke: Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman. Mitchell, thank you.

Hartman: You're welcome.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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