Nowhere. Just broke up. Disappeared. Dissolved. Dispersed. Puff.

“The vast majority of it,” according to Carol Browner, the White House energy and climate adviser, in what must seem as confounding and amazing and heaven sent to the White House as it does to us, “is gone.”

The scientists are apoplectic but, on the other hand, can’t find the oil either. Still, they believe it’s there: “50% to 75% of the material that came out of the well is still in the water,” said John Kessler of Texas A&M University, who led an on-site study. “It’s just in a dissolved or dispersed form.” Which is, for the environmentalist trying to make an historic stand in the Gulf, a problem. It may be everywhere, infused, inculcated, in the ecosystem blood stream, but it is otherwise, apparently, not in evidence.

Now, people do not believe the government, which has hardly had a good record of coming clean about the spill, but they don’t particularly believe ecologists, either, who haven’t managed to sell global warming very well. Curiously, this White House used to believe in global warming, but that might change if the ecologists continue to search for that giant orb of oil in the sea.

Of course, the White House is just hoping against hope that they won’t find it.

This is a narrative problem that doesn’t seem to serve either side very well. It suggests the more fundamental issue of our time, even beyond bad government and environmental calamity: nobody knows what they are talking about.

And, too, that in the face of all logic otherwise, everybody will insist that their position is the true and obvious one.

The White House is now the cheerleader for good times and breezy nights and all the miraculous good fortune in the world, and, too, its own probity, good sense, and measured reactions (what had heretofore been a model of what-not-to-do in crisis management).

The scientists are now the fumfering ones, insisting that it is true because it must be true, that we all must believe it because it’s something that can’t be known — there are long-term consequences here and will be for years to come. The future is scary, as environmentalists can always be counted on to say.

The greater crisis is, as it has long been: the lack of a reliable narrator.

*This article first appeared on Newser