Image via NASA
The latest estimate from the federal government for the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf every day has just been doubled -- up from 12,000 - 19,000 barrels to 25,000 - 30,000. These new numbers, which many scientists still feel low ball the true amount, mean that a spill the size of the entire Exxon Valdez tragedy has occurred every 8-10 days since the leak first began. And yes, seeing as how we're nearly two months into this spill, that means the BP Gulf Spill is currently roughly 7 times the size of the Valdez -- or more. The New York Times reports:
The higher estimates will affect not only assessments of how much environmental damage the spill has done but also how much BP might eventually pay to clean up the mess -- and it will most likely increase suspicion among skeptics about how honest and forthcoming the oil company has been throughout the catastrophe.But remember, some scientists believe that as much as 50,000 barrels could be spewing forth from the leakage site every day.
The new estimate is based on information that was gathered before BP cut a pipe called a riser on the ocean floor last week to install a new capture device, an operation that some scientists have said may have sharply increased the rate of flow ... The new estimate appears to be a far better match than earlier ones for the reality that Americans can see every day on their televisions. Even though the new capture device is funneling 15,000 barrels of oil a day to a ship at the surface, a robust flow of oil is still gushing from the well a mile beneath the waves
Either way, it seems pretty clear that BP has been low-balling the numbers from the start -- they initially reported that 1,000 barrels was the extent of the leakage, if you recall. Now they say they're collecting 15 times that.
Finally, the oil may be spilling out at a faster rate than from the period analyzed to reach the current estimate, as the flow is believed to have increased after BP cut the riser to install a capture tube. So even though BP is capturing 15,000 barrels a day, it's still unknown how much oil is escaping into the Gulf.