As a story in the Christian Science Monitor shows, the Gulf oil spill is much worse than we’ve been told:
It’s now likely that the actual amount of the oil spill dwarfs the Coast Guard’s figure of 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, a day.
Independent scientists estimate that the renegade wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf could be spewing up to 25,000 barrels a day. If chokeholds on the riser pipe break down further, up to 50,000 barrels a day could be released, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration memo obtained by the Mobile, Ala., Press-Register.
As estimates of the spill increase, questions about the government’s honesty in assessing the spill are emerging.
“The following is not public,” reads National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Emergency Response document dated April 28, according to the Press-Register [see this]. “Two additional release points were found today. If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked resulting in a release volume an order of magnitude higher than previously thought.”
An order of magnitude is a factor of 10.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that John Amos, an oil industry consultant, said that NOAA revised its original estimate of 1,000 barrels after he published calculations based on satellite data that showed a larger flow.
The 5,000 barrels a day is the “extremely low end” of estimates, Mr. Amos told the Journal.
CNN quotes the lead government official responding to the spill – the commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Thad Allen – as stating:
If we lost a total well head, it could be 100,000 barrels or more a day.
Indeed, an environmental document filed by BP estimates the maximum as 162,000 barrels a day:
In an exploration plan and environmental impact analysis filed with the federal government in February 2009, BP said it had the capability to handle a “worst-case scenario” at the Deepwater Horizon site, which the document described as a leak of 162,000 barrels per day from an uncontrolled blowout — 6.8 million gallons each day.