A sample of Gulf oil spill doomsday theories

Matt Simmons, who described BP’s operation to cap its leaking Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico as the “biggest environmental cover-up ever”, is not the only one circulating alarming ideas about the spill.

The drama of the Deepwater Horizon disaster has captivated many, and the mix of methane gas in the oil leak has made perfect fodder for doomsday theories and rumours. Some of these have turned out to be true, such as the contention that the actual size of the leak was much greater than BP and the US authorities were at first admitting. Others, we can now safely say, were simply implausible. Most of them involved methane gas and extinction in the same sentence.

Here’s a sample of the most far-fetched ones:

The first theory, probably the most apocalyptic of all, suggested that BP imaginative had drilled into a violent reservoir of methane gas releasing a “mega bubble” which would have set off a chain of events leading to supersonic tsunamis which would have created havoc and devastation in the Gulf. The methane gas bubble would have altered the bouyancy of oceanic water to the extent that any ships in the ten mile radius would have sunk much like the Bermuda triangle.

The methane gas explosion would have introduced more greenhouses in the atmosphere setting off long term climate change from which human race would have not recovered. In other words, a disaster that would have spelled the end of humankind as we know it. We would have met the same fate as the dinosaurs. According to one theory, a mega methane gas bubble led to the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

A second variant of the methane gas doomsday theory posited that the methane gas escaping into the atmosphere would have been highly inflammable, putting the lives of people living around the Gulf of Mexico at risk. They could have all died in a gigantic explosion set off by a spark, possibly from lightning or maybe by somebody lighting a cigarette.

Besides several methane gas theories, there are others, such as Mr. Putin’s advisers’ omnious report suggesting that the toxic dispersant used in BP’s initial attempts to stop the leak would dissolve in water resulting in toxic rain that could have killed millions of people.

The genuine ecological toll of the oil spill has been very serious. But these scenarios, thankfully, will all remain in the realm of theory.