I posted a rebuttal of the notion that using hay to soak up the Gulf's oil spill is practical except in limited, small-scale circumstances - Hay for oil spill is no plan and More on soaking up oil.
Now, via Life in the Louisiana Wetlands blog, I followed a link to the Walton (Fla.) Sun's story, "'THIS IS OUR DEFENSE': Walton County will defy state, lay hay on incoming oil."
In defiance of Florida Department of Environmental Protection wishes, Walton County emergency officials are determined to use hay to protect their beaches from sludge. ...DEP's officials said "that Walton County’s testing of the absorbent qualities of hay is 'not real world.'" The DEP said that the oil "would be too weathered to be soaked up by hay."
The DEP, which has final say in oil spill preparation planning, claims the hay would be ineffective and add to the mess the spill will make. ...
Experts describe weathered oil as oil that has been exposed to the elements for long enough to have become soaked with water and pick up sediments or other debris.But the county said it is going ahead with this plan which it says is intended to save the county's beaches, not soak up oil in the sea. So a real-world test seems in the offing.
“Hay will cause more problems than it will solve,” [State Sen. Don] Gaetz said ... “It will create more cleanup and pickup because the oil is of a different consistency.”
Update: At Autoblog, commenter Devin (#32, no link) writes that using hay is lethal to marine life.
They tried this before, it soaks up the oil then sinks to the bottom of the ocean, where it kills everything in sight, and is more difficult to clean up than the original oil spill. Animals can get away from a slick on the surface, they can't get away from a poisoned ocean floor. That is why they no longer use this option.This in addition to hay's other serious problems. So even hay used as a beach-front barrier must be retrieved promptly, lest the tide wash it to sea. Here is the video that made this whole hay thing into an Internet meme.
Update: Esquire published yesterday an excerpt of an interview with John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil from 2005 until 2008 ("Why Obama Must Stop Blogging & Start Leading on the Gulf").
JH: The work going on to close the well is taking multiple approaches, and I am aware that BP has sent out a message to all the oil companies asking for help and advice. And I actually sent some people to BP in terms of the spill response cleanup to try to get them aware of a process that has been used in the Arabian Gulf that has not been used in the Gulf of Mexico, and that is to use supertankers, empty supertankers, to suck up the oil off the surface, where they can store the oil, they can treat the water, they can discharge the water and then they can either salvage the oil or destroy it, as the case may be. And I know the mayor of New Orleans and a few other officials are now asking BP about that process as a result of these engineers coming forward from Saudi Aramco.
ES: When did that spill happen, John?
JH: I don't actually know, but it was sometime back, there was a huge, huge spill that never got reported, because they don't have an open press, obviously... But I was told it was a 700-million-gallon spill.
ESQ: That would be the biggest, right?
JH: That would be the biggest the world has ever known. And they used six supertankers to clean up the oil and were very successful. We'd do well to get supertankers in the Gulf.