Is there an upside to the oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico?

Easy answer: none that really matter.

by Adriene Hill

Ah, silver linings. Is there anything that we like more than finding even the smallest upside of a really bad situation? The search for anything positive about millions of gallons of oil pouring into the ocean seems to be just as desperate as the attempts to stop the flow.

Most of the silver lining talk seems to fall into the "this could be a wake up call" category -- about the role of government (see Paul Krugman or Rep. Bart Stupak) and about the environment.

Gay Browne wrote in Huffington Post:

"Thus, I propose, that while this is a disaster the likes of which we will hopefully never see again, there is a silver lining. I imagine that in 10 years from now we will look at this as a defining moment in the quest for green energy. This event will be the catalyst for us to start utilizing greener and safer fuel sources."

While Brown's hope has some historical basis, so far, no environmental revolution. Most Americans just don't seem all that concerned, and oil gushing into the Gulf hasn't changed that, at least not yet.

But I have a few other silver linings (slim and insignificant, yes, but perhaps far more realistic.)

1. We'll get to see lots of pictures of animals being rescued. These will make us feel good.

Just try not to think about the fish, birds and everything else that are less lucky.

2. (Directly related to #1.) The oil spill is good for Dawn Soap and its parent company Procter & Gamble.

Dawn seems to be the detergent of choice for cleaning oil soaked animals. So they stand to get loss of good press.

The first time I watched that ad, I felt all warm and fuzzy toward Dawn. Then I noticed the words "Simulated Demonstration" in the lower corner of the screen.

Turns out, "the professional animal actors were applied with a mixture of dark sugar molasses, Dawn product, and child-safe finger paint," says a Dawn spokeswoman.

Cute! (Or not -- I mean they still covered a duck in molasses.)

PS: I wonder how much the "professional animal actors" make?

3. The oil spill could boost prices for oyster fishermen who don't harvest in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oyster fisherman who don't fish (oyster?) in the Gulf stand to gain--especially if limitations on Gulf fishing stay in place. This could be good news for fisherman in places like Puget Sound and Olympia, Washington.

A spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute told me there are two reasons oysters are the seafood segment that's most likely to feel the impact of the spill:

  • 70 % of the oysters we eat in this country are from the Gulf.
  • Unlike fish, oysters can't swim away from the oil.

Good point.

4. The oil spill seems to have created a lot of jobs for people with "Hazwoper" training.

First of all "Hazwoper"-- one of the best words I've come across in a while.

Hazwoper is an acronym for Hazerdous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, and they need all sorts of Hazwoper certified folks to clean up the oil.

No one has been willing to give me any official estimates of how much oil-cleanup-related-hiring is happening, but there are lots of jobs posted on sites like indeed.com.

Perhaps one of the most telling features of the job listings: they don't have end dates:

"Jobs will begin immediately and there is no estimated end date."

"The duration of employment is not known at this time. It could be 1 - 2 months or 1 - 2 years."

But, even in this economy, I'm not going to call that good news.

About the author

Daryl Paranada is the associate web producer for Marketplace overseeing all daily website content and production, as well as producing multimedia features -- including the popular economic explainer series Whiteboard -- and special projects. Follow him on Twitter @darylparanada.

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