Gulf Oil Spill May Far Exceed BP’s Estimates, Now Much Bigger Than Exxon Valdez Disaster

According to experts commissioned by National Public Radio in the U.S., the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico may be at least 10 times the size of official estimates.

This just in from NPR:

At NPR’s request, experts examined video that BP released Wednesday. Their findings suggest the BP spill is already far larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska, which spilled at least 250,000 barrels of oil.

BP has said repeatedly that there is no reliable way to measure the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by looking at the oil gushing out of the pipe. But scientists say there are actually many proven techniques for doing just that.

Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, analyzed videotape of the seafloor gusher using a technique called particle image velocimetry.

A computer program simply tracks particles and calculates how fast they are moving. Wereley put the BP video of the gusher into his computer. He made a few simple calculations and came up with an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill: 70,000 barrels a day — much higher than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.

The method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent.

Given that uncertainty, the amount of material spewing from the pipe could range from 56,000 barrels to 84,000 barrels a day. It is important to note that it’s not all oil. The short video BP released starts out with a shot of methane, but at the end it seems to be mostly oil.

Click here to read the full story and listen to the interview on NPR.

Meanwhile, yesterday on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Senator Lautenberg (New Jersey) asked unanimous consent to raise liability cap on oil companies, and Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) objected! The Alaskan senior senator blocked the legislation that would have dramatically increased liability caps on oil companies, in the wake of one of the industry’s biggest disasters.

In honour of Ms. Murkowski’s jaw-dropping defense of Big Oil, I’m reposting this video from “Polluter Harmony”,  Even Environment-Hating Politicians Need to Feel Loved.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIfnVM4O3js&feature=player_embedded]

“The Gulf Appears To Be Bleeding”: Today is Day of Action, Night of Mourning Against Offshore Drilling

As I mentioned previously, today has been declared a National Day of Action, Night of Mourning Against Offshore Drilling. From Rising Tide North America comes this call to action:

Once again the fossil fuel industry has brought crisis to the Gulf Coast. Devastation of untold proportions spews non-stop from BP’s oil well as politicians try to save face with empty promises, and oil companies preserve their profits with PR campaigns. This catastrophic spill comes on the heels of Obama’s plan to expand offshore drilling. The price of burning fossil fuels is too high. From combustion to extraction the oil industry poisons our communities, destroys ecosystems, and destabilizes the climate. Now is the time to stop offshore drilling dead in its tracks and drive another nail into the fossil fuel industry’s coffin.

People are encouraged to take action to demand:

-An immediate ban on all offshore drilling

-A rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels

-No bailouts for the oil industry. All recovery costs must be paid for by BP, Halliburton, Transocean and other implicated companies.

-The federal government must remove any caps on liability for oil companies.

-BP provides full compensation for impacted communities and small businesses.

-BP provides full funding for long-term ecosystem restoration for impacted areas.

-Oil companies operating in the Gulf fully fund restoration of coastal ecosystems damaged by canals, pipelines, and other industry activities.

Actions To Take:

Click here to go to Rising Tide’s National Day of Action page for more information on specific actions to take.

Click here to sign Avaaz.org’s petition against offshore drilling.

Click here if you live in Canada and want to sign a petition to protect our Pacific Coast from oil spills.

Also, if you are Canadian, please take the time to encourage our Senators to pass Bill C311, The Climate Accountability Act, as it makes its way through the Senate. The bill will have its first reading in the Senate near the end of May, only a few weeks away.   Click here to get the Senators contact info. Keep in mind that Senators are not elected and therefore they have no constituents,  so it’s best to contact as many of them as you can.

Take time to talk to people today about how offshore drilling needs to stop, and that there is a better way to power our economy and our cars than dirty fossil fuels.  (Click here to read “We Have Better Choices Than Drill Baby Drill” if you want ideas about how to start the conversation).

Phone your elected representative and tell them it’s time to stop drilling and start focusing on a cleaner, greener way to get our fuel.

To get galvanized into action, check out this YouTube video filmed by local Brinkley Hutching and narrated by her father as they fly in his plane over the Gulf right to “ground zero” of the oil volcano that is erupting. When he says “The Gulf is bleeding”, you can see what he means!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uG8JHSAVYT0]

To read Brinkley’s heartbreaking account of the catastrophe, go to “A Local’s Account of the Deepwater Disaster”.

Spill Baby Spill, Kill Baby Kill

More horrifying news and pictures pour in from the  out of control oil volcano erupting in the Gulf of Mexico.  From The Huffington Post, “When Will It End?”:

Another week of oil pouring from the seafloor. That is the best-case scenario for the Gulf Coast, where dead sea turtles washed ashore and a massive rust-colored slick continued to swell from an uncontrolled gusher spewing into the water.

…”I’ve been in Pensacola and I am very, very concerned about this filth in the Gulf of Mexico,” Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said at a fundraiser for his U.S. Senate campaign Sunday night. “It’s not a spill, it’s a flow. Envision sort of an underground volcano of oil and it keeps spewing over 200,000 gallons every single day, if not more.”

Fishermen from the mouth of the Mississippi River to the Florida Panhandle got the news that more than 6,800 square miles of federal fishing areas were closed, fracturing their livelihood for at least 10 days and likely more just as the prime spring season was kicking in. The slick also was precariously close to a key shipping lane that feeds goods and materials to the interior of the U.S. by the Mississippi River.

Click here to read the full story.

From Climate Progress, “Shocking Allegations Against BP”:

At least one worker who was on the oil rig at the time of the explosion on April 20, and who handled company records for BP, said the rig had been drilling deeper than 22,000 feet, even though the company’s federal permit allowed it to go only 18,000 to 20,000 feet deep, the lawyers said.

Click here to read the full story.

If only we had listened to Dr. Seuss, who warned us back in 1971, where we were heading with our wanton destruction and disregard for the balance of nature in The Lorax. You judge for yourself:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GECJcW2Ifm4]

Big Oil’s Big Mess in the Gulf of Mexico: “America’s Chernobyl”

It looks like it is going to be a catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.  What’s unfolding right now is not an oil “spill”, it’s an unchecked gush of oil – oil pouring out at a rate we now know is at least 5 times, and may be 10 times, what BP originally announced.  Time.com put it this way:

It may be time to stop referring to the Deepwater Horizon rig accident in the Gulf of Mexico as an oil spill. A spill sounds like something temporary, a glass of milk overturned, which empties and then can be cleaned up. But what is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, not far from the sensitive shorelines of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, isn’t a spill. It’s an unchecked gush of crude oil from beneath the bottom of the ocean into the water — and no one can say for sure when it will finally stop.

From the Louie Miller, Director of  Mississippi branch of the Sierra Club:

… BP, the world’s third largest energy company formerly known as British Petroleum, has mishandled the crisis ever since an oil rig the company was managing exploded April 20 off the Louisiana Coast and sank two days later.

“I don’t think I’m overstating the case by saying this is America’s Chernobyl at this point in time,” Miller said at a news conference today in Gulfport.

“This is going to destroy Mississippi and the Gulf Coast as we know it – from property values … to our barrier islands. It’s a big deal, you all. And unfortunately, we do not see the response that we have asked for.”

Oil Spill Facts:

  • The oil spill exceeds the worst-case scenario predicted by BP when it filed its exploration plan with the government. The spill is estimated at roughly 210,000 gallons a day. In BP’s exploration plan, the company outlined a worst-case scenario of 162,000 gallons a day.
  • The disaster may have been prevented by a special shut-off switch, but BP did not purchase the switch and after drilling companies questioned its cost and effectiveness, the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling, decided the device wasn’t needed. [Wall St. Journal 4/30/2010]
  • At its current rate, the spill could surpass by next week the size of the 1969 Santa Barbara spill that helped lead to the far-reaching moratorium on oil and gas drilling off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts
  • Some estimates show it could take 3-4 months to contain the spill. By that time, the spill could exceed the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.
  • 59 Fatalities, More Than 1,300 Injuries, 853 Fires.  There have been nearly 60 casualties and more than 1,300 injuries on the rigs in the Gulf of Mexico alone since 2001.  “Working in the oil industry is more dangerous than working in coal mines.”   [CBS, 4/22/2010]

BP Facts:

  • $5.6 Billion In Profits.  During the first quarter of 2010, “BP said its profit rose to $6.08 billion from $2.56 billion during the same period of 2009. Excluding the impact of energy prices on unsold inventories as well as $49 million of one-time items, and BP would have earned $5.65 billion, topping consensus estimates by about $900 million.”  Profits increased 135% from 2009.  [Bloomberg, 4/27/2010]
  • 41% Raise For BP’s CEO.  “Chief Executive Tony Hayward’s total remuneration and share awards rose 41% in 2009 on performance bonuses from improved operations which made the company one of the best performing oil majors in the fourth quarter, despite lower full-year profits due to the fall in the oil price.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/5/2010]
  • $16 Million In Lobbying.  BP spent $16 million lobbying in 2009. [Opensecrets]
  • $3 Billion In The World’s Dirtiest Oil.  Meanwhile the company invested $3 billion in 2007 in the dirtiest source of oil on earth: Canadian tar sands. “The result will be the development of a major new Canadian oil field and the modernization and expansion of the Toledo refinery to allow far greater use of Canadian heavy oil and to increase clean fuels production by as much as 600,000 gallons a day.”  [Climate Progress, 12/18/2007]
  • $900 Million In Alternative Energy Budget Cuts.  In 2009, BP cut its alternative energy budget to between $500 million and $1 billion from $1.4 billion in 2008.  “BP has shut down its alternative energy headquarters in London, accepted the resignation of its clean energy boss and imposed budget cuts in moves likely to be seen by environmental critics as further signs of the oil group moving “back to petroleum.” [The Guardian, 6/28/2009]

Bloomberg.com reports that Oil spill’s “fisheries failure” may signal the end of coastal towns:

“This is going to be the biggest economic disaster to hit Louisiana,” he said. “It could be 10 times the economic damage of Hurricane Katrina.

Click here to read the full story.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FG-b4n4yTGc]

Click here to see pictures of the spill at Time.com

Click here to send a message to President Obama to stop offshore drilling now, and for volunteer sign-up information.

Click here to go to the “Ban Offshore Drilling” petition on 350.org, and/or join the Facebook group 1,000,000 Strong Against Offshore Drilling.