The massive oil slick bobbing in the Gulf of Mexico still hasn't reached shore, thanks in part to the unprecedented doses of an oil-dispersing chemical that are being dropped on it. The spill is being blasted with as much as 60,000 gallons of the dispersant each day, by way of planes above and remote-control robots on the seafloor that are spraying it directly at the oil gushing out of the leaking well, the Wall Street Journal reports. That far outweighs the biggest previous use: 166,000 gallons on a 1996 spill off the UK coast.
The dispersant breaks down oil into tiny particles that can then be absorbed by natural bacteria. While dispersant can cause environmental damage itself, experts say its impact pales in comparison to the damage from an oil spill. With rough weather and favorable winds also helping keep the oil offshore, officials are frantically searching the globe for stockpiles of dispersant. A containment dome is on a barge out to the leak, and will "hopefully" be operational by the end of the week, said a BP executive.