"Accidental Earth Experiment" Prize to BP for Gulf Oil Spill

BP wins an ignoble award for "remarkable corporate focus on negligence and incompetence." And for helping scientists discover some amazing things.

Today, the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University announced the winner of the first ever "Accidental Earth Experiment" Prize. The unsurprising winner: BP.

Bill Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School, explained that "BP’s negligence and incompetence in this instance were truly remarkable; the company sets a very high bar for future experimenters and purveyors of environmental disaster to try to top. We are hoping the CEO of BP will come to Duke on April 1st to accept the award."

Goofiness aside, there is a more serious point here. Science is based on experiment, and the Earth is the ultimate laboratory. For obvious and very good reasons, scientists aren't often able to carry out experiments in the planet's natural environments. But a disaster like the Gulf oil spill can also be an opportunity for scientists to learn a lot about how oil impacts the aquatic ecosystem, and how the ecosystem reacts. We have learned, after all, that bacteria in the Gulf ate up all of the methane in just over three months, an astonishing and definitely unexpected finding.

So, BP, thanks, I guess, for helping us learn about oil's impacts on the Gulf of Mexico? We couldn't have done it without your negligence and incompetence.