With considerable hoopla, BP has managed to fit a cap on the leaking pipe, which it claims is gathering gushing oil at a rate of about 10,000 barrels a day. CEO Tony “I can’t get my foot out of my mouth” Hayward claims that the cap will capture the “vast majority” of the gushing oil. BP has also ramped up spending, which is now running at about $27 million a day. The US Coast Guard is a bit less sanguine, unusual given their optimism to date, and is now talking about the Gulf being “under siege” until autumn. Which runs from late September through late December, it should be pointed out, so that could be another six months. But who’s counting? The natural comparison here is the Ixtoc I spill in 1979, which produced 140 million gallons, to date the largest spill of all time, which this may exceed. It’s good, I suppose, to remember that Ixtoc gushed for nine months. Ixtoc wasn’t deep, either—it was only 150 feet down, not nearly a mile.
The problem here is that a containment cap has never been used at this depth before with this much oil, so you might see a potential problem there. There’s another problem as well—the cap may be capturing only about half the oil. In fact, if you check out the gusher livecam that BP helpfully provides, it’s pretty clear there is still a whole lot of oil coming out. And if you go over to the even better livecam provided by WKRG, you’ll see the helpful little counter to that indicates the current flow. It’s not pretty. Notice that if you divide the number of gallons estimated to have leaked so far (and who knows whether this overstates or understates the actual case) by 55, you come up with a number in the region of 1 billion barrels of oil. And that’s to date. There is literally no way of knowing what the final count will be. Or even the current count, for that matter.
If you scroll down on the WKRG page, you’ll come to their handy little Gulf Oil Spill Map, in which they tell you what the forecast for spill movement for the next day or two will be. If you want a slightly longer term view, you can go here and get really depressed.
With all this going on, it’s good to know that life goes on in the region. Mississippi governor Haley Barbour assures us that Mississippi beaches are open, and there’s no oil—or, just a little bit, really, nothing to worry about. In fact, it’s the media coverage that’s the problem here, not the oil spill, which people are making entirely too much of. Needless to say, he’s been critical of the moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf. Thank god for Republicans—if they didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them.
BP’s headquarters is directly across the street from my office. Aside from some Greenpeace folks hanging out a couple of weeks ago handing out leaflets, and one guy climbing to the roof (pretty easy—it’s only six stories) and setting up a Greenpeace flag, there have been virtually no protests here in London. Weird.
Oh, yeah, this too. Jeez.