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Scientists see oily silver lining in BP leak

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Bill Radke: A scientist at Texas A&M says besides oil, the Gulf spill is releasing vast amounts of methane that threaten the ecosystem. Methane can potentially remove oxygen and suffocate marine life. There also may be a scientific silver lining to the oil spill. Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz reports the Gulf of Mexico has become a funding opportunity for researchers.

Rob Schmitz: Scientist Joe Griffitt says he usually looks for research funding in unconventional places, like underneath his couch cushions in his living room. Whatever he can scrounge up to supplement the modest start-up funds he’s working with at the University of Southern Mississippi to study how chemicals affect sealife. This is money that, up to now, has not been spent on covering the fallout of a major oil spill.

Joe Griffitt: Those funds were all dedicated to other research topics, and I’ve kind of pulled my people off that, rededicated a lot of stuff that I was working on to this, because this is a critical issue and I think it’s important enough to take that gamble that there will be money coming in the future to look at this.

Earlier this week, BP announced the first round of funding of a half a billion dollars it’s pledged towards researching the biological impacts of the spill. Griffitt plans to apply for a piece of that funding. He and his colleagues dropped what they were doing in the first days of the spill to conduct baseline samples of what wildlife was like before oil started to spread. But for a scientist so close to the spill that he can smell benzine through his office window, Griffitt says he and his colleagues would give the money back to make all the oil disappear.

I’m Rob Schmitz for Marketplace.

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