Alrighty then, why do we care? Easy: Scientists at UC Riverside have found living bacteria there which is capable of breaking down the petroleum deposits. Even in that harsh environment, live organisms have been found... which is pretty amazing by itself. Here is a quote from Jong-Shik Kim (on the left), a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Environmental Sciences, "We were surprised to find these bacteria because asphalt is an extreme and hostile environment for life to survive. It's clear, however, that these living organisms can survive in heavy oil mixtures containing many highly toxic chemicals. Moreover, these bacteria survive with no water and little or no oxygen."
According to the source article, "The bacteria and their enzymes have potential application for bioremediation (cleaning oil spills), medical treatments (new medicines), alternative energy (biofuels), enhanced oil recovery, and industrial applications (biochemicals and biotechnology)."
[Source: UC Riverside]