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Posted by on Aug 6, 2010 in At TMV, Economy, Law, Media, Places, Politics, Science & Technology, Society | 0 comments

What Is the Real Magnitude of the BP Oil Spill? (Updated)

After three months of spewing millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, it appears that BP’s runaway well has been permanently plugged, albeit both BP and the U.S. government won’t claim victory until the relief well is completed sometime this month.

We will not know the short and long-term effects of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history for months, perhaps years.

For months, the world watched the crude gushing from the Deepwater Horizon well via live underwater video.

For months, government and BP officials, scientists, engineers, academics, politicians, pundits and laymen have been trying to estimate how much oil was actually escaping from the well.

Not only is it important to fairly accurately know the amount of oil that has escaped in order to assist the clean-up efforts, to help assess the environmental impact and damage, and to plan continued clean-up and recovery efforts, but it is also important because, according to Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins, “it’s the oil flow estimate that will be used to determine the fines that will be levied against BP for destroying the Gulf Coast region.” Linkins adds, “An accurate measurement is “the last thing BP wants,” referring to a July 8 report by Robert L. Cavnar, founder of

Both the government and BP have been accused of deliberately under-estimating (or under-reporting) the size of the spill in the early days.

In its most recent August 2 report, the government estimates that a total of 4.9 million barrels of oil has been released from the BP Deepwater Horizon well and also summarizes “the disposition of the oil to date.” In other words, where the remaining oil is, in what form, and what has happened or will happen to the rest of it.

Linkins is—as are so many others–skeptical about this figure, and he has reason to be.

Over the past few months, Linkins has been keeping a close eye on this issue and has been checking regularly with Sarabeth Guthberg over at, who herself has been doing a heck of a job “chronicling BP’s ever-shifting spin on the amount of oil that’s been gushing into the Gulf Of Mexico.”

Linkins writes about it in his “Final Deepwater Horizon Flow Rate Estimate Is Likely Too Low, Which Benefits BP

Good stuff! Please read it.


Below is the government’s “Oil Budget” showing current estimates of what happened to the oil from the Deepwater Horizon well. Click on image to enlarge.