Sunday, May 2, 2010

More Context and Proportion on the B.P. Gulf Oil Spill

Today I intended to delve into the question of "why" the left and the media was hyperventilating over the Gulf oil spill. That's been delayed for a day or two. The adjectives used to describe the spill were over the top, and in some cases just plain dishonest. To give context--and more importantly a sense of proportion--to the story, I made the simple case that the daily flow (5000 barrels or 200K gallons) was equal to 1/3 of an Olympic competition swimming pool. A poster on the US News and World Report website has done me one better, and shed some light into the hysteria surrounding the oil spill. Enjoy.--

How About A Little Perspective? A Sticky Mess - Not A Cataclysmic Disaster

"Natural seepage of crude oil from the sea floor into the marine environment of North America exceed 47 million gallons, and 180 million gallons globally."

“Activities associated with extraction and production introduce an average of 880 thousand gallons in North American waters and 11 million gallons worldwide.”

*Source, “Oil in the Sea III” Committee on Oil in the Sea - National Research Council.

“Natural seeps from the earth’s undersea strata introduce about 1700 barrels of oil a day in U.S. marine waters, which is approximately 150 times the amount from offshore oil and gas activities.”

*Source, “National Academy of Sciences 2003-2004.

“Natural seepage introduces 160 kilotons into North American Waters annually. Total from exploration, extraction, transportation and refining is approximately 12 kilotons.”

*Source, “U.S. Dept. of the Interior - Minerals Management Service 2004.

“Activities associated with exploration and production account for 3 - 5% of all releases due to anthropogenic activity.”

*Source, “Committee on Oil in the Sea: Inputs and Effects - National Research Council - National Academy of Science 2003”

Here are some more fun factoids.

1. More oil was spilled into the sea from shipping losses every 6 weeks of W.W.II than in the entire 65 years since the war’s end. The oceans survived.

2. The “hopane marker” of petro-chemical pollution in the sea reached it’s maximum in 1946 and has been in decline ever since.

3. In 1792-6, George Vancouver, Captain Cooke’s famous navigator made notes in his log regarding numerous, vast oil slicks off the Pacific Coast of North America. Juan Cabrillo recorded similar experiences in the mid 16th century off the coast of California.

4. Over the past 20,000 years sea levels have risen more than 300 feet (YOU THINK ALGORE KNOWS THAT?) and the erosion caused by rising levels has increased “natural seepage.”

5. University of Ca. Santa Barbara researchers (Hardly a neo-con group) find that off shore drilling reduces natural seepage of crude oil by more than 50%.

6. 20-30 tons of oil leak from southern California under fissures every day! Remember, this number would double if we eliminate off shore drilling.

7. Truk Lagoon was the site of the most intense fuel/oil spill on record. 77 Japanese ships were sunk by American dive and torpedo bombers, dropping thousands of tons of high explosives into the enclosed lagoon, in a single day. The lagoon did not become a "Super Fund" site, but rather a thriving dive resort with a wonderful and diverse underwater ecosystem. Oil still leaks from the sunken vessels 66 years later.

R.L. Schaefer of CA


  1. This is true. However, I hope this does not wipe out the Ridley's sea turtle

  2. "Wipe out"? Nah. There will be some damage Beak, but it's not the end of the world. Remember what Saddam did to the P.Gulf? I saw that first hand, and it was worse than this by a HUGE amount.

  3. I just don't get it...the pictures are sure bigger than an Olympic sized pool, Jingo...
    The stuff washing ashore in the photos sure seems MUCH bigger than that. I believe the information above but it's hard to consider. What's NOT hard to consider is how much our media will hide from us anything that doesn't suit Obama's agenda.
    I love how they called his coming to Louisiana 1 1/2 wks afterwards a "rush" and am blogging on that in a few hours..MAN, what amazing liars.

    you hearing that N Korea might have blow the rig up? I thought that was INSANE but I'm hearing it more and more...WTF??

  4. You're exactly right Z, the pictures ARE much worse. That's the nature of oil. Take a teaspoon of some 10W40 oil and drop it in a bathtub of lukewarm water and rough up the water just a little for a minute. My guess is that it will cover a LARGE area of the tub in no time. It spreads out like crazy, disperses, is consumed by microbial critters, etc..

    There will be a short term kill off of fish , some sea birds and turtles.

    Even smart people have a tough time getting beyond the emotional aspect here. :-)

    It's NOT as bad as the pictures indicate...

  5. Z, about the Norks, if I was you I wouldn't bet a nickel on it. They don't have pot to piss in, much less a Navy capable of reaching our Gulfo de Mexico.

  6. Ya, Jingo, they're saying now that some bubble caused the oil explosion......
    You sticking to your story about the amount of oil? (I know it's not YOUR story, but...)...
    I guess the amount of spill that comes ashore will tell the story, right?
    Your info makes a lot of sense but it's hard for even ME to believe our 'experts' are so dishonest they'd over exaggerate this hearing anything more?

  7. thanks for the factoids and perspective my friend!!

  8. Anytime WHT!! Facts seem to be the first casualty when hysteria and emotions are running high.

  9. Oil spill volume must be taken in context of the amount over the affected area.

    Jingoist provides a useful pointer to the broader issues surrounding the volume of oil spilled by citing the US News and world report (link please! I can't find it).

    Scientifically, we can take heart that the oil volume is relatively small in the context of its distance from shore. If this oil were spilled within sight of Florida's best beaches, no one would dare say it was a small amount.

    The fact that the volume is some fraction of an Olympic swimming pool's volume has nothing to do with its potential to cause harm.

    When you read any article, including US N&W Report, look to see if you can identify a particular bias to how it presents the information.

    All substances are toxic and harmful, depending on dosing rate relative to the site of impact.

    For example:
    Dosing - 200 aspirin will kill you if taken orally all at once, but can be beneficial if taken over a one year span.

    Site of impact - 200 aspirin taken all at once won't kill you if rubbed onto your skin rather than ingested (though I'd wonder about you doing that sort of thing...)

    So, sure, oil discharged annually in ship bilge water each year will probably be several orders of magnitude greater than the total volume of the BP spill, but oily bilge water discharge is scattered across globe where its localized concentration is small relative to the local ecosystem which adapts to its presence without much noticeable damage.

    Whereas if the BP oil spill pretty much stays together as it hits a coastline, it will likely overwhelm the local ecosystem's capability to adapt to its presence without adverse effects.

    Thus, no matter how toxic the dispersant used by BP (subject of today's 24/7 news cycle), the societal and ecological benefits from preventing the oil massively dosing a small area will outweigh the negative impacts to overall marine waters from using the dispersant.