The world has finally seen directly the turbulent plume of oil, gas and water billowing from a sliced steel pipe on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. But new video clips, released by BP Wednesday afternoon, haven't clarified one of the central unknowns in this crisis: Exactly how much oil is leaking into the gulf?And right now it's looking like both BP and NOAA are playing hot potato with the how much. It could be that the situation is hopeless, and that The Powers That Be are trying to lowball as not to cause panic. If there really is no way to cap this gusher and BP has to go with Plan Z, that is the long, slow laborious process of drilling a new well to take the pressure off the blowout that could take months, complaining about the number is a pointless exercise.
It's clearly a lot -- anyone can see that. But experts say that, without a meter, it's impossible to estimate the flow, particularly since it's a mixture of oil, gas and water.
"Anybody who can tell you how much oil is coming out of that thing is likely lying to you," Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, said after reviewing the video.
But BP could use established scientific methods to measure the flow if it chose to do so, said Rich Camilli, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. One technique, for example, would use sonar in a manner quite similar to sonograms used in medical diagnostics, he said. Or BP could use the containment dome that was lowered to the sea bottom as a kind of measuring device.
"More information is always better. Right now there's only a very sketchy idea as to what the flow rates are. It's important to have very accurate numbers, if nothing else to scale the response for the oil slick," Camilli said.
You know, except for the fact that Gulf state Republicans are going to brutally savage incumbent Democrats this fall should the truth be that Obama and the federal government was lying to the public. If I'm Obama, I want that number, I'd want that number public, and I'd want it around BP's neck like a concrete albatross.
Otherwise it's going to be hung on Obama...and rightfully so.
[UPDATE] Hey look, NPR is reporting that there could be 70,000 barrels of oil a day coming out of that pipe a day...that's 2.94 million gallons, give or take.
Not good news, folks. That's an Exxon Valdez every 4 days. And it's been 3 weeks.