Oil Spill Bigger Than Estimated

The "5,000 barrels a day" number, which has become the conventional wisdom about how much oil is spilling, could "easily be four or five times" less than what's actually spilling every day. BP continues, however, to resist allowing scientists to conduct more accurate volume measurements.
BP has repeatedly said that its highest priority is stopping the leak, not measuring it. "There's just no way to measure it," Kent Wells, a BP senior vice president, said in a recent briefing.

...Speaking more broadly about the company's policy on measuring the leak, a spokesman, David H. Nicholas, said in an e-mail message that "the estimated rate of flow would not affect either the direction or scale of our response, which is the largest in history."
Which is appropriate, given that this stands to be the largest oil spill in history. Kevin Drum notes, if indeed the underground reservoir continues bleeding until it's dry, "That would be about 2 billion gallons of oil. If all of this floods out, it would be the biggest oil spill in history by a huge margin and 20 times bigger than the biggest previous spill in the Gulf of Mexico."

And BP, while resisting proper volume measurements to determine if we're talking about 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) or 25,000 (1,050,000 gallons) of leaking oil every day (or even more), is "using chemical dispersants to send most of the oil to the bottom of the sea. This keeps it off the shore, but might end up doing more damage in the long run. Nobody seems to know for sure."

The federal Minerals Management Service gave permission to BP and dozens of other oil companies to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without first getting required permits from another agency that assesses threats to endangered species — and despite strong warnings from that agency about the impact the drilling was likely to have on the gulf.

Those approvals, federal records show, include one for the well drilled by the Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and resulting in thousands of barrels of oil spilling into the gulf each day.

The Minerals Management Service, or M.M.S., also routinely overruled its staff biologists and engineers who raised concerns about the safety and the environmental impact of certain drilling proposals in the gulf and in Alaska, according to a half-dozen current and former agency scientists.

Those scientists said they were also regularly pressured by agency officials to change the findings of their internal studies if they predicted that an accident was likely to occur or if wildlife might be harmed.

...Responding to the accusations that agency scientists were being silenced, [Kendra Barkoff, a spokeswoman for the Minerals Management Service] added, "Under the previous administration, there was a pattern of suppressing science in decisions, and we are working very hard to change the culture and empower scientists in the Department of the Interior."
"I told you so!" comes the collective scream from all those dirty hippies who were concerned about Dick Cheney's Top Secret Energy Task Force and the unchecked corporate handouts from the Bush administration to Big Oil in the form of massive deregulation. Remember when raising concerns about corporate cronyism during the Bush Era meant you were SUCH AN ASSHOLE because SHUT UP THE MARKET WILL SOLVE EVERYTHING!...? Yeah, well, let's all hold our breath and see how long it takes the Invisible Hand to reach down into the depths of the sea and PLUG THAT GODDAMN HOLE in BP's fucking rig.
Another biologist who left the agency in 2005 after more than five years and who now works as an industry consultant said that agency officials went out of their way to accommodate the oil and gas industry.

He said, for example, that seismic activity from drilling can have a devastating effect on mammals and fish, but that agency officials rarely enforced the regulations meant to limit those effects.

He also said the agency routinely ceded to the drilling companies the responsibility for monitoring species that live or spawn near the drilling projects.

"What I observed was M.M.S. was trying to undermine the monitoring and mitigation requirements that would be imposed on the industry," he said.
Because who gives a fuck about the planet when corporations need to make money, amirite?

Honestly. It's like the thought that all their vast, fantabulous, cock-hardening profits won't be worth shit if there's no goddamn livable environment left never crosses their greedy little one-track minds.


UPDATE: Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs the congressional subcommittee on energy and the environment, says "he will launch a formal inquiry Friday into how much oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico after learning of independent estimates that are significantly higher than the amount BP officials have provided."

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