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All Aboard! Oil Reaches the Loop Current May 18, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Media, Offshore Drilling, Politics.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Recent satellite imagery shows that the oil slick appears to have reached the Loop Current, the warm water flow that is now taking oil through and around the Florida Keys and on up the East Coast.

Surface oil appears to have been caught in the Loop Current. Source: SkyTruth

Click for bigger.

Only the surface slick is visuble; it is possible that massive subsurface oil plumes have been in the current for several days already.  Indeed, tar balls began washing ashore in the Florida Keys this morning.

There will certainly be more on this later.

In related news, BP’s math does not add up.

“BP’s Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles told CNN that about 1,000 barrels of oil per day is being suctioned up by the tube, out of about 5,000 barrels that the company believes is gushing out daily.” –AFP, 5/17/10

By now, you have probably heard the legitimate doubt expressed about BP’s weeks-old 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) estimate.  Based on satellite imagery and analysis of the small video clip that was finally released, experts place the flow rate at about 70,000 bpd (3,360,000 gal/day), well over a full order of magnitude greater than BP’s lie and equivalent to an Exxon Valdez spill every 4 days.

BP refuses to update their estimate.  In light of that, scientists have repeatedly asked to use their own sophisticated instruments on site to determine the actual flow rate:

The answer is no to that, a BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said on Saturday.We’re not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It’s not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort.”

They won’t even release more of video footage, analysis of which enabled the recent independent estimates above.  This is an unnecessary and even unjustifiable suppression of information that an administration-controlled response could clear up.

To be fair, 5,000 bpd was the last Coast Guard estimate as well.  However, they stopped making estimates about 3 weeks ago and acknowledge that the rate is certainly higher than 5,000 bpd.  USCG officials promptly stopped quoting that figure; when you stop estimating, it makes no sense to continue to use that obsolete estimate.

BP, on the other hand, has a different strategy.  They have not only refused to revise their estimate and are actively blocking others from the information they need to accurately calculate the flow, they continue to tout that false figure as “the most recent estimate”.  Many media outlets, with no other authoritative source to turn to, have been dutifully trotting out that lie for weeks.

Yesterday, BP’s COO Doug Suttles was even bold enough to assert that their tube was capturing 1/5 of the leaking oil!  In reality, that’s more like 1/70.  If the total flow rate is “not relevant,” then stop citing your false estimate of it.

“This morning we were producing over 1,000 barrels of oil into the drill ship. So it’s good progress.” –AFP, 5/17/10

“PRODUCING.”  Not “diverting,” or “capturing” or “sparing the Gulf’s wildlife and coastal residents,” producing.  Even nearly a month into this epic catastrophe that they caused, BP has the gall to point out that this containment strategy is producing viable oil.

I could be accused of overanalyzing diction here, but this terminology is symptomatic of a broader problem: BP is not viewing this as a paradigm-shifting event.  To them, it is a minor setback.  And if we don’t alter their liability, that is all it will ever be.

BP’s daily profits dwarf the daily cost of spill response, and at the current rate, the company could cover the entire cost of cleanup thus far in just under four days of profits. –ThinkProgress, 5/11/10

4 days’ profit.  Does that sound familiar to anyone?  It should – that’s all that Exxon ended up paying for the Valdez spill: 4 days’ profit.

Congress must raise oil company spill liabilities (and stop offshore drilling).  Those who do not learn from history…

Full list of oil spill questions and answers here.



1. Daily Summary for May 19 2010 : Coast Guard Digest - May 19, 2010

[…] All Aboard! Oil Reaches the Loop Current – Recent satellite imagery shows that the oil slick appears to have reached the Loop Current, the warm water flow that is now taking oil through and around the Florida Keys and on up the East Coast. […]

2. A Crisis We Cannot Afford to Waste « The Political Climate - May 19, 2010

[…] lies, this spill is already well over double the size of Exxon Valdez.  The surface slick is entrained in the Loop Current headed through Florida to the East Coast, and vast additional plumes of toxic oil are lurking in the water column travelling who knows […]

3. Send BP’s Spokespeople Home « The Political Climate - May 31, 2010

[…] have been among many others to document lie after lie released by BP and covered in the media.  So let’s put an end to it.  Here’s my […]

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