Soon after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, two papers in Science Express looked at the chances for bioremediation and seemed to come to opposite conclusions, i.e. that the Deepwater Horizon spill will or will not be rapidly degraded by microbes. This highlights that we know far too little about the microbes and microbial communities that can degrade oil in seawater, so we cannot predict whether they will be helpful in a given case and it will indeed be difficult to recruit them for cleanup operations.
Depressingly, science doesn't appear to have advanced very much since I covered oil-eaters in my book Life on the Edge 12 years ago. Much like the oil eating microbes themselves, research activity investigating their lifestyle tends to multiply after an oil spill and then fade again.
I wrote a short article about these first studies (and a third one which appears to weigh down in favour of bioremediation at least of the lighter hydrocarbons such as propane) which is now out in Spektrum der Wissenschaft:
Öl fressende Mikroben im Meer
Spektrum der Wissenschaft Nov. 2010, p. 12
first paragraph and restricted access to PDF file
PS This is the only German piece this month, so this blog entry also serves as my round-up of German publications.