CommunityThe Bullpen

BP Oil Spill Five Times As Large As Presumed

Five thousand barrels of oil are spilling into the Gulf of Mexico every day, five times more than previously expected, in the continuing BP offshore oil spill. We’re now approaching a disaster on par with the Exxon Valdez.

Coastguard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) experts now estimate that 5,000 barrels a day of oil are spilling into the gulf – far more than the previous estimate of 1,000 barrels a day. Robot submarines have so far failed to shut off the flow, 1,500m (5,000ft) below the surface, but the coastguard said a test burn on an isolated area of the spill was successful.

The revision came after a new leak was discovered and strong winds were forecast which NOAA said would push the oil towards the US shoreline.

BP did engage in a test burn to keep the oil from hitting the shoreline, an action they termed successful. We’re starting to see the first videos of that massive oil fire, and they look about as horrifying as expected. The US military has begun to help with the cleanup, but because of the accelerating leak, even these efforts will probably not prevent from oil washing up on the shore in Louisiana by Friday. John Cole writes that this ecological disaster will mostly be borne by Louisiana’s citizens:

And, of course, the poor bastards in Louisiana will be bearing the brunt of it again. It goes without saying that this will have horrifying consequences for the wildlife, fishing, and touring industries, and more than likely will devastate the ecology of the region for years to come. Unless I am mistaken, the brown pelican just came off the endangered species list, to name just one species that is probably at risk. And because of the nature of the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi Delta, with all the estuaries that from above look like the earthen equivalent of a lung’s alveoli, the surface area that will be impacted by the spill is going to be extraordinarily large and remote and impossible to protect. This won’t just be a couple days of black oil on the beaches in front of Mississippi casinos that can be quickly (by comparison) attended to by concerned environmentalists and the government. This is going lay waste to a broad, broad swath of very remote areas, and there is going to be carnage and damage for decades to come.

The White House says that BP will bear the financial costs of the cleanups. Who pays the environmental cost? The cost to wildlife and the ecology? And will those costs be measured when determining whether we should keep putting platforms in the water and drilling for a known pollutant?

Previous post

Oilpocalypse Now: A Power Lunch with Michael and James.

Next post

Obama's Justice Department considers suing to block AZ law - but not to overturn Prop 8 or DADT!

David Dayen

David Dayen

1 Comment