Truthsquad on the BP Oil Spill
The impacts have been much, much less than everyone feared.
Jacqueline Michel, Geochemist on the BP Oil Spill
Source: Time

Editor Findings

  • Truthsquadeditoricon_thumb
    Mostly True
    We find this quote to be "Mostly True" - but with caveats. Because this quote is so vague, it was hard to render a verdict - particularly since it is an opinion about an opinion, rather than a verifiable 'statement of fact'. The damage is certainly much greater than BP officials originally described. But we have not seen enormous swaths of oil washing up on miles and miles of beaches. It's too early to conclusively describe the damage caused by the spill. That will take years. However, it appears true that many many scientists and other experts say out loud that they are pleasantly surprised by the resiliency of the gulf, the beaches and the wetlands. There have been hundreds of oil-soaked birds, not thousands. Oil on the beaches has washed up in much smaller amounts than predicted. Very few injured or dead mammals have been recovered. The oil appears to be breaking down and evaporating more quickly that was thought possible. These effects are described in detail in the NPR Science Friday interviews that are provided in the supporting links. So the environmental impact of the spill is in fact not as bad - at this point in time - as experts thought it would be. However, almost every respectable expert qualifies that statement by cautioning a wait-and-see attitude. There is still a large amount of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and experts are uncertain about what will happen to it. -- Kelly McBride on behalf of the Truthsquad Editors

Community Findings

Mostly False (2.0)
  • Jon Mitchell
    Jon Mitchell
    Not Sure
    This is a hard quote to fact-check, because it is not concrete. How do we factually account for "everyone" or what their level of "fear" was or is? At the same time, the most important fact to ascertain in this statement is the "impact" of the spill, and I think it's clear from the references that Michel is premature in her assessment. The Ecology section of the Wikipedia page is much more thoroughly sourced than the Time article, and the clearest conclusion I drew from it is that it's much too early to tell what the impacts of the spill have been.
  • Fabrice Florin
    Fabrice Florin
    Not Sure
    I need to research this a bit more before I can give you an answer. This is a tough one to prove or disprove, because we first have to establish what exactly "everyone feared", then compare that to what we now know has happened.
  • Joey Baker
    Joey Baker
    I'm going to go with false based on several points: • Though we're not seeing this quote in context, it is far too early to tell what all the impacts of the oil spill actually have been. • It's a nebulous statement because we have no idea what impacts everyone feared. • It's also nebulous because we don't know which impacts she's referring to.
  • David Fox
    David Fox
    Not Sure
    Maybe less than everyone feared so far, but I don't think the final results will be in for months, maybe years.
  • Kaizar Campwala
    Kaizar Campwala
    Not Sure
    In the spirit of scientific skepticism, I'm answering not sure. The bio-dynamics in the part of the Gulf where the spill occurred, the depth at which it happened, and the amount of oil that has been released, is unlike what has been seen in other oil spills. This makes predictions about impact, either feared or otherwise, difficult to pin down. However, the NPR's Science Friday link I added (worth checking out) suggests that the Gulf area should be able to recover.
  • Kristin Gorski
    Kristin Gorski
    Not Sure
    The sources I found either presented statistics without context (Visual Economics infographic) or information saying that the impact is still being assessed (Guardian UK article).
  • Subramanya Sastry
    Subramanya Sastry
    Not Sure
    By itself, the quote is unclear ("much much less", "everyone feared") -- but in the context of the article from where the quote was lifted, it feels less nebulous. I say unsure because it is still too soon to know all the impacts of the spill -- given the extent of the oil spill. It feels too soon to make a definitive statement on all the impacts (ecological, human, economic, political, etc.).
  • Kelly McBride
    Kelly McBride
    Not Sure
    This quote is too vague to really tell if it's true or false.
  • Jim Lang
    Jim Lang
    Not Sure
    Could be true but hard to determine in the absence of an informed debate and some scientific consensus.
  • Steve Myers
    Steve Myers
    Not Sure
    First, it's too early to tell. The slick is smaller now that the well has been capped. But this New York Times story talks about how the dispersants have shifted the impact of the oil from the surface and shorelines to the organisms living underwater. This statement is hard to judge because it's so broad. Whose fears? What impacts? To seabirds? To fish? To the overall environment of the Gulf?
  • William Owney
    William Owney
    Certainly the possibility of unknown, long-tern effects remain, but the statement deals with two contingencies, the actual damage vs. what had been feared. I seem to recall a certain doomsday mood to the conventional wisdom as it was expressed over the past 100 days: Massive underwater plumes, it would smear the Atlantic Coast, destruction of the shellfish industries. That clearly did not happen.
  • Eric Yendall
    Eric Yendall
    Not Sure
    Who exactly is "everyone"? There were lots of fears, speculations, guesses, analyses of the effects of the spill. I have not seen a comprehensive objective and scientific review because it is premature to reach definitive conclusions about the long-term effects of the spill. But obviously it is better than some have maintained and worse than others have hoped. Was it a complete and total environmental disaster? Apparently not.
  • David Cohn
    David Cohn
    Maybe it is true - but I think if we've erred it's probably on the side of not knowing enough of the damage it will cause.
  • Michael Bugeja
    Michael Bugeja
  • Deborah Plummer
    Deborah Plummer
    I have heard most of the dead sea creatures are at the bottom of the sea: Out of sight/out of mind.
  • Lynn Caporale
    Lynn Caporale
    Not Sure
  • Jerry Best
    Jerry Best
  • Tony Russomanno
    Tony Russomanno
    True, with an asterisk. The impacts have been less, so far.
  • Melva Hackney
    Melva Hackney
  • Robin Osborne McMullen
    Robin Osborne McMullen
    We may not know the full impact for a decade or more.
  • Margaret Yonco-Haines
    Margaret Yonco-Haines
  • Dyann Putman
    Dyann Putman
    Not Sure
  • Liz Scott
    Liz Scott
    We don't know what the effects will be ultimately. But what we have seen is certainly worse than many of us feared.
  • Scott Edward Steiner
    Scott Edward Steiner
  • Felice Kincannon
    Felice Kincannon
  • Christian Bertolaccini
    Christian Bertolaccini
    Because of how unique this situation is, having no reference in other disasters with any sort of comparable scale (the Valdez spill is the only thing even remotely close to this disaster, but it is still not in the same league and therefore can not be used as a total and complete predictor) I do not think that it can be easily concluded that the effects of this spill were "much, much less than everyone feared." On the first level, it is impossible to know the long-term effects of the oil will have on future generations of wildlife, and whether it will contribute to adverse reactions, mutations, etc. But on another level, it would be very difficult (impossible, really) to prove that the impacts have been much less than EVERYONE feared. When speaking in such total terms, it cannot be proven one way or another. It is like saying that "everyone was surprised by the movie"; it is too subjective to assert credibly.
  • Chris Strosser
    Chris Strosser
  • Angel M. Ocasio
    Angel M. Ocasio
  • Arthur Roshon
    Arthur Roshon
  • Marjorie P. Dugan
    Marjorie P. Dugan
    Not Sure
  • The Thomas
    The Thomas
  • Michael Costigan
  • Jess Henryes
    Jess Henryes
  • tdeleon
  • Allan Edwards
    Allan Edwards
  • Ari Rusila
    Ari Rusila
    Depend of course how you define everyone.
  • Steve Andrews
    Steve Andrews
    Not Sure
    There are so many tricks in this statement that determining its meaning and the conditions for its truth is almost impossible. (Maybe there should be a fourth possible response: True, False, Not Sure, Meaningless) It's the time issue that is most problematic - did "everyone" expect specific effects as of this time in the calendar of events? Or were they fearing effects without a time-line - in which case, these effects could still come to pass...
  • Michael Scurek
    Michael Scurek
  • Scott Ross
    Scott Ross
  • Maryanne Sobocinski
    Maryanne Sobocinski
    Not Sure
    I have kept up with this environmental disaster since it began. The statement above is partially inaccurate. The illegal toxic dispersant used and the millions of gallons of oil polluting our Gulf may have long-term effects on the future ecosystem of the Gulf for years to come. The "plume" of oil that BP denied does exist well below the surface of the Gulf. This fact was confirmed by USF scientists two weeks ago. The long term effects of this "plume" could be devastating to the economy, environment, wildlife, fishing industry, tourism and may even threaten the safety of our future water supply from the Floridian aquifer.
  • Josh Brown
    Josh Brown
  • Wendy Wallace
    Wendy Wallace
    True, it's too early to tell. But after initial reports, I feared oil on the beaches around Tampa Bay within weeks. That obviously didn't happen. Given the currents, the disbursements, the depth of the well, the impacts SO FAR do seem less than everyone feared.
  • Roger Morris
    Roger Morris
    Not Sure
  • Tamie Baggett
    Tamie Baggett
  • susie krstec
    susie krstec