That Good Gulf Gas

Well, it turns out that there’s a lot more oil being spilt in the Gulf than anyone knew. Or, at the very least, than anyone was saying.

The story has been that the spill was releasing about 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) every day. Those numbers were generated early on by government scientists using a method which is not generally recommended for large oil spills. BP, for its part, has been saying that it’s impossible to measure the rate accurately, and anyway, they’re spending all of their efforts trying to stop it rather than trying to measure it. In the weeks that followed, several independent groups have spent considerable effort trying to get a good estimate of the actual flow rate.

Ian McDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University, says that the rate is easily “four or five times” the original estimate. That would put the leak at 840,000 to 1,050,000 gallons per day.

Steven Wereley, an associate professor at Purdue University, estimates the rate at 2,352,000 to 3,528,000 gallons per day. He’s using a method called ‘particle image velocimetry’, which is considered to be pretty accurate.

Timothy Crone, an associate research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, estimates about 2,100,000 gallons per day.

For perspective, the Exxon Valdez is estimated to have leaked about 10,800,000 gallons of oil. That means that, by any of the revised estimates, we have already eclipsed the scale of the Valdez spill and will likely exceed it by at least an order of magnitude.

I can’t believe that the American people are not paying more attention to the real lesson that this spill teaches us. And it’s a vitally important lesson:

We have very large reserves of oil in America, and we need to empty them. They are too dangerous to leave where they are.

Environmentalists and other narrowly-focused policy wonks will doubtlessly harp on the environmental impact of this spill and the handful of others that have happened in the recent past, but they’re missing the point. We need oil. We have oil. Let’s go get the oil. It’s far too dangerous to leave in the ground. Just think, if there was no oil left, could this spill have even happened?

Listen. Man-made environmental disasters happen. They’re unavoidable. We can’t let a few unmitigated disasters prevent us from exploiting our own natural resources. That would be un-American.

[edit] I’ve had a new idea on how to deal with this issue (link). -Thom

50 Responses to “That Good Gulf Gas”
  1. ThomPaine says:

    Thanks to Joy and WordPress for featuring this post in Freshly Pressed. It’s certainly brought a lot of new visitors to my site.

    Welcome, Visitors!

    Please take a look around. There’s a lot of content and commentary that I hope you will find interesting. If you like the site, please consider subscribing via one of the links in the right widget bar. I tend to post daily, so you never have to wait long for new content!

  2. Raul Alanis says:

    I will say that it is sad that it happened.

    • Has anybody stop and think about how something like this happened. This ocean building has outstand huracain force winds like Katrina and others. How could a human error, after so many years of having this plant working, could cause such an explosion? The answer is this: there was a terrorist attack but the goverment dosen’s want us to know that because that would wreck our economy. Think about and you’ll get to the same conclusion, it is there in front of our eyes.

  3. I think these so called “Scientists” need to get a grip on this oil leak before it’s too late. I’m from Louisiana and all I gotta say is I don’t care WHO started it like a kindergartner would say, I just want it stopped before it ruins our coast line and wildlife. This is really bad for our state’s tourism industry. So much for coming out of the recession.

  4. We can’t ignore the fact that our world runs on fossil fuels, and we will continue to run on them for the foreseeable future. That is, unless we find and install “dilithium crystals” from Star Trek fame. [Can you imagine running NYC, LA, Houston, Dallas, DC, Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans, St. Louis, Minneapolis, etc. on wind mills or solar panels? That is not realistic.] So, we will be using oil, gasoline, natural gas, etc., and the question is “What is the better source of these fuels?” From countries that have no intention of following our enviromental rules, and will hold us hostage with pricing? Or, in the US, where we control the exploration, production, supply and pricing?

    I live in Louisiana. It is sad that this occurred, and it definitely needs to be cleaned-up. But, if the US stopped all production in the Gulf, tomorrow, other countries would travel to the area and drill, and the risk would only escalate. Prices would rise, we would have not control, and we would still have to purchase the very same fuels.

    Explore here, produce here, refine here, and sell here. It will provide jobs, improve our economy and allow us to monitor and control the production.

    • Joseph says:

      I concur with this assessment. If we didn’t drill there other countries would instead. And unlike us where we know where we stand in terms of control of our drilling equipment, we know NOTHING about what kinds of safety procedures other countries may or may not have in place. When controlled by us the uncertainty is more easily managed. When other countries drill on our doorstep because we’re not utilizing it, the uncertainty about their safety procedures gives us pause.

    • Christopher says:

      You, also, are an idiot. The whole of the world could be running on solar energy (think a solar array on every rooftop in America).

    • Christopher says:

      Wow. You breathe through your mouth, don’t you.
      Your ignorance is breathtaking!!

      • Joseph says:

        ahh…insults….the typical last resort of liberals who find that they’ve met their intellectual match….:-P

  5. Sean Rogan says:

    I’ve seen lots of contradictory “estimates”, there is no doubt it is bad, but right now I don’t believe anyone knows how bad.

  6. A. Genia says:

    The way I see it WE all knew something like this could happen. Now it has and we have to deal with the consequences.

  7. neurotype says:

    It’s true! Exploit those resources, good Americans!

    Yeah, those estimates are horrifying–not just because of the environmental effects, but because we’re supposed to be paranoid about our remaining oil reserves and are somehow so reckless that there’s no safeguard absolutely stopping an oil spill of that magnitude.

    On the other hand, hydrogen is supposed to be the next step in energy production. We should really be concentrating on sucking all of it out of the air and our water.

    • heatherschwartz says:

      I agree!

    • Joseph says:

      The only problem with that is that hydrogen tends to readily bond with a great many other elements, such as oxygen for water and the peroxide we use on our cuts and as a cheap non-toxic alternative to chemical disinfectants and as a color-safe bleach in our laundry. It also bond readily with Group 1 metals to from metal hydrides (sp?). The cleanest method we have of obtaining hydrogen is electrolysis of water. Not very efficient. Other methods involve dirty energy. What I’d like to see is research into tapping into geothermal energy. There has also been talk of the prospect of using algae as a source of oil from which gasoline and diesel could be made. From what I hear algae can produce some decent oil yields and it is a highly renewable resource as it regrows fairly rapidly. I think that would be kind of cool too.

  8. What we have is an addiction to machines, electric lights, combustible engines, crackberries and online junk. Oil fuels those addictions. Overconsumption fuels those behaviors. Just how many miles did TransOcean have to drill to find energy for those addictions? Jeez! Folks, consume less, pedal to work. Put deep-ocean drilling out of business, unless it will give us a cure for cancer.

  9. ray says:

    Sounds great

  10. Songbird says:

    Good write up!

  11. colin L beadon says:

    The escaping oil could be quite easily estimated accuretly , once you know the exact size of the oilfield caings the oil is coming out of. There is a limit to such flow. Perhaps the oil is also coming up in the formation outside the actual well bore too ? Do we know for sure ?

  12. iedei says:

    As someone who runs an automotive blog which is devoted to the use of petrol and oil in our modern world; i can respectfully DISAGREE with your tone towards this situation. Random drilling for selfish means might be very American (in fact it IS very American)…..however that doesn’t make it correct. There is a lack of responsibility that is being shown in this situation…….and much of the conservative self-interested politicians and corporations are at the root of that lack of responsibility.

    Lack of responsibility is HUGELY UNAMERICAN. You don’t have to be an environmentalist or a left wing fanatic to be able to understand this……..

    I’m personally sick of the money-in-their-pocket viewpoint of the right wing, putting aside any rules and ethics in order to fill their own pockets…

    • Joseph says:

      No us conservatives are actually all for cutting spending and encouraging everyone to live within their financial means. It’s actually the liberals who favor out-of-control spending policies. The money for all this government welfare for lazy bums who’ve never worked a day in their lives isn’t gonna grow on trees you know. It can only come from one place: the US taxpayer. And I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of being told by the government how to spend my hard-earned money. That is not to say that I’m anti-tax. A Republic’s basic operations of facilitating commerce through institutions designed to make and enforce fair and just laws and maintaining public infrastructure and providing for the safety and protection of the citizenry incurs a certain amount of expense which should be funded through taxes. Charity, however, can never be the result of government mandates, which is what government welfare is. Charity is defined as a gift of one’s own time, talent, and/or treasure to help one who is less fortunate. I see no free-will giving in “help” for the poor that is forced through taxation.

    • Christopher says:

      Well said!

  13. Sash says:

    Even this new laptop I’m using is made from oil. Who’d a thunk it!

  14. melanirae says:

    “Let’s go get the oil. It’s far too dangerous to leave in the ground. Just think, if there was no oil left, could this spill have even happened?”

    You do realize that this wouldn’t have happened if there hadn’t been a pipe already in place, right?

  15. Lauren says:

    This is completely true! If only more people would think about the dynamics between energy and the environment from this perspective. If we don’t make use of what we have, someone else will come in and do it for us in what will surely prove to be a far less satisfactory manner. President Obama, please read this blog.

    • melanirae says:

      You are so right. I heard that aliens have been waiting for the perfect chance to come down and steal our resources. So maybe it’s a good thing this happened! With all the terrorists and aliens trying to destroy us, I hope Obama reads this and stops cutting NASA spending.

  16. Rohit says:

    The americans first want to finish all the oil in the gulf and only then will they explore their oil. The reason is quite simple. Americans spend more fuel for their vehicles than any other country. In fact, the state of California spends more fuel for its vehicles than any other country on this planet. – Just imagine how much the entire country must be using. Obama recently issued a statement that Indians are buying more cars. Indian account for a miniscule of total cars in the world compared to its population. As per indications, India may have the largest no. of cars by the year 2050, will still be less compared to its population vis-a-vis US or Europe.

    The Americans do not ask or fight for public transport. if there could be public transport in US, the state will not need so many cars. Has the US president Obama become a puppet of these automobile giants, just like the other US presidents. US today invades other countries in the pretext of terrorism for the sake of oil.

  17. David Raikow says:

    Sorry, but “too dangerous to leave in the ground” is ridiculous. Your implication is that its would have bubbled up to the surface at some time inevitably. But this oil had to be tapped before it could ever have spilled. So if we left it where it was, deep underground, it would still be there.

    Yes we need oil, and domestic production reduces the need for foreign importation. But we should be using this time -when we have oil- to figure out how to stop needing oil. Even if our oil lasts another 100 or 200 years, it will eventually run out, simply because the planet is finite.

    BTW, comparisons to Valdez are tenuous at best. That was oil spilled directly on the surface, close to shore in a relatively confined area (Prince William Sound). Here we have oil being released from the seafloor. The dynamics are going to be totally different. That’s not to say harmless, just different. And the Gulf off shore of Louisiana is already stressed from hypoxia (the dead zone). Its a very complex set of stressors.

    Your pejorative language only serves to further polarize the discussion between stereotypical “environmentalists” and “industrialists”. It is possible to know that we need oil now, that domestic oil is better than foreign oil, and also that alternatives should be developed because oil is risky and harmful.

    • Joseph says:

      I do support off-shore drilling. We need to stop giving money to the Arab countries that make up OPEC for our oil. The only way to do that is to explore domestic sources of oil. I do agree, however, that companies like BP should have more strict safety procedures in place that enable them to make sure their equipment is safe before starting the drilling procedures. Also like I said algae sounds like a promising alternative source for our oil.

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  21. Donna says:

    Hopefully, they can get these leaks capped as SOON AS POSSIBLE. Otherwise as devastating as this catastrophe already is, the situation will grow beyond anything most people ever would have imagined.
    For this very reason, I have NEVER supported offshore drilling. Hopefully, others will come to understand
    the consequences are not worth the risks. I have to agree with “Stephen Hawking” world renowned physicist when he stated that the intelligence of man might NOT be a good thing. He was referring to the fact that humans have the know how to develop technologies that may ultimately cause our own devastation. Specifically, humans have the intelligence to develop advanced technologies but may not have the “restraint” in using them. In my opinion, this man made offshore disaster would be a good example of man pushing the limits of technology and NOT exercising some simple “common sense” to avoid this environmental disaster. Apparently, man is not so smart after all.

    • Joseph says:

      how do you think OPEC gets the oil that we buy from them? magic? nope….same way we get it…by drilling

      so they risk the same kind of disasters….but somehow since it’s happening in a land far removed from ours it’s OK?

      disasters are a way of life…..I hate that this tragedy has happened…but we can’t let a disaster cloud the fact that domestic production is much better for our overall economy than importation…this goes for ANY product….they say necessity is the mother of invention…so I say that this disaster should make companies like BP see the necessity for having stricter safety protocols in place before initializing drilling procedures

      and as I said and keep saying…algae sounds like a promising alternative source of a biological nature for the oil we need…and think of the much needed private sector jobs this research and algae farming could produce….but in the meantime we should also look towards utilizing our own sources of crude oil… be used in tandem with this algae alternative….because we’ll need something to fall back on whilst we wait for algae sources to replenish themselves…not to mention terrorists could attack our algae supply with biochemical agents should they ever find out that we were to start using algae as a primary source of oil and relegating crude oil to secondary resource status

  22. sinbalas says:

    First I ask permission to express my views as a commentator more inside
    in tThis meeting room we have a diversity of views with the
    same trend.
    Have you been thinking that everyone uses
    oil, undoubtedly this is one more industry, which has today’s date
    at current state not found in this generation and previous
    a replacement of oil. by accident while margins in
    handling this, it is perfectly acceptable within the
    statistically possible parameters occurring.
    Do not forget the past with other industries such as nuclear energy and its
    waste, pollution committed by the industry over the
    years with the Industrial Revolution CO2 affecting Warming
    Global goes on. Not be so hard on something that is
    statistically happen. They have asked you that hurts more, a
    tsunami, hurricane or earthquake as happened in Chile.
    Let me leave thinking because I have to go to work
    earn my bread by the sweat of my brow. affectionate greetings of sinBalas,
    …….. I has done everything possible to appear in the freshly press and notbody
    haven´t even read me, that if it’s tragedy.

  23. Man is ruining the Earth trying to do what he wasn’t born to do. Rule! That’s why the caste system in the United States called the rich vs. poor exist. Fueled by arrogance, man’s nose is in the air instead of looking at his own negligent affairs. Common sense is gone. Man is destroying our home—the Earth. He is more concerned about protecting the money than other human beings. Anyone who believes that man can eradicate his evils, should drive by the grave yard—it’s a generational thing. This world is broken and man can’t fix it.

    • Joseph says:

      in the USA one earns wealth based on the quality of his work… earns wealth based on his own merits….you obtain wages and wealth only if you work hard and work your way up…doesn’t sound like an unfair caste system to me….and as far as help for the poor it is best served by non-profit entities that are designed to give short-term aid in basic necessities while at the same time teaching them how to work their way into decent-paying jobs….this doesn’t sound unfair to me…it sounds like true charity in action…wholly different from the “charity” of government…which is not a free-will gift but rather an entitlement forced from the wages of hard-working citizens through taxation…and in most cases by its very nature is also not geared towards helping the poor become self-sufficient….because a self-sufficient populace is a threat to the power the government seeks to wield through what will eventually become a complete and total cradle-to-grave nanny state if welfare spending is not placed in check

  24. Jonathan says:

    I couldn’t help thinking “we need trees, we have trees, lets cut them all down”.

  25. pierce says:

    lol nice pic. indeeed this is a big mess we have encountered. BP better get its act together before they enoucnter some serious financial problems

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