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.
Indeed, 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.
As the Associated Press notes, “experts warned that an uncontrolled gusher could create a nightmare scenario if the Gulf Stream carries it toward the Atlantic”. This would, in fact, be bad, as it would carry oil far up the Eastern seaboard:
[Click here for full image.]
The ultimate worst-case scenario is that the oil could be carried from the gulfstream into world-wide ocean currents (see drawing above). I do not believe this will happen. Even with the staggering quantity of oil being released, I don’t think it’s enough to make its way into other ocean currents, and I don’t think any doomsday scenario will play out.
But it is still very bad, indeed …
For an even more complete and bigger-picture update, see this.