While developments in alternative energy - like solar, wind, and thermal - continue, the harsh truth is that it will be some time before these and other energy sources can make a considerable dent in our reliance on fossil fuels. And so the reality of someday having to contend with another spill, perhaps on the same level as the Gulf oil spill or worse, is very real.
Therefore, while science continues to look towards alternatives, it is also looking at ways to deal with the effects of spills on the environment. Chemical dispersants, while perhaps being able to actually disperse the oil, have not been given a clean bill of health, so to speak, when it comes to ancillary effects on the environment, particularly when used at the high levels administered in the Gulf oil spill. Scientists are trying to find more natural or organic methods to better treat oil in the soil, plants, and even on animal life, like birds.
Here are two interesting videos from National Geographic Daily News that highlight some of the research and progress that is being made in this approach. If successful, it could provide a means to better combat the effects of an oil spill. But these will never replace the need for more alternative fuels - just like methadone is only a temporary replacement for the heroin addict. Getting off the addiction is the ultimate and only definitive cure.