Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

April 29, 2010

“Spill Baby, Spill” – Oil Leak “May Be Five Times Initial Estimate”

Category: Climate Change,Companies,Energy Independence,Political – Tom Harrison – 8:26 am

Credit: New York Times

I think I should claim a scoop on this story, as when I wrote my post the other day, I had beat the New York Times and most other media to identifying the BP Oil Spill as a rather major disaster. I am sad to say “I told you so”.

The news media seem to be coming around to my way of thinking. The New York Times is now reporting as the lead story that, um, those 42,000 gallons of oil per day leaking into the sea may be more like, um 210,000 gallons (this is all converted to “barrels” now — an oil barrel holds 42 US gallons, so the initial estimate was 1,000 barrels/day is now 5,000).

Holy hole, Batman!

And it appears that BP’s public relations operation has also gotten bigger.

Fortunately, the problem isn’t that bad. No, really.

A story yesterday said that there are several ways to mitigate the problem. The first is by burning the oil, which they tested yesterday, and which if extremely effective might reduce the amount of oil on the surface of the sea by half. Several other methods are in progress and are expected to take two to four weeks to implement (I am hopeful that these estimates are better than their original leak estimates).

The British Petroleum spokesman said of the safety device that isn’t working

…the blowout preventer was tested 10 days ago and worked. He said a valve must be partly closed, otherwise the spillage would be worse.

(the non-BP expert they consulted characterized “worse” as “orders of magnitude” greater. An order of magnitude is 10x, two orders of magnitude is 100x worse and so on).

The BP spokesman continued saying

…the crude spilling from the well was very light, the color and texture of “iced tea” and implied that it would cause less environmental damage than heavier crude, like the type that spilled from the Exxon Valdez into Prince William Sound in 1989. He said in most places it was no more than a micron thick and in the thickest areas was one-tenth of a millimeter, or the width of a hair.

(Oh and on that point, the Valdez spill released about 10 million gallons of oil. So at the rate currently estimated, the first million gallons has already leaked. And if the oil is contained in two weeks, only 4 million gallons will be released. If it takes four weeks, that brings the total closer to 7 million gallons.)

and then, in a fine bit of reportorial irony, the next paragraph says that the spokesman

…declined to answer questions about any potential political fallout and said BP “will be judged primarily on the response.”

So far so good for BP, as higher oil prices have doubled their earnings, and in a most ironic twist, this disaster is reported to complicate efforts to pass an energy and climate change bill.

I feel much better now. To summarize:

  • It’s not nearly as bad as it could have been (even though five times worse than they thought)
  • Shortages of iced tea in the South will be relieved
  • The oil slick is thin
  • It is not as bad as the Valdez spill (only 4 to 7 million gallons)
  • Political fallout will be based on how they respond
  • BP’s profits will help it pay for this minor little problem
  • This may further derail climate change legislation

Sorry, but I have to say this: are all employees of oil companies idiots, or is it just their executives and spokesmen? (Not to mention Sarah “Drill Baby, Drill” Palin).


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Harrison. Tom Harrison said: Spill baby, spill. 5x more oil is leaking than previously predicted. BP in full PR damage control. […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Spill baby, spill. 5x more oil is leaking than previously predicted. BP in full PR damage control. -- — April 29, 2010 @ 8:52 am

  2. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m partially responsbile. I mindlessly purchase fuel with no regard for the business, ecological, or moral actions of the companies that drill for the oil and refine it into the products that I burn in excess.

    At least with electricity, I can pay a couple of extra cents per kWh for ‘green’ sourced energy. I’m not sure how much it really helps, but at least I feel a bit better.

    I’m totally on-board with the conept of continually reducing energy use and the 5% concept. But, I’m also totally on-board with driving myself and kids all over the place to sports games and practices, school plays and concerts, and a whole list of other things. But, that doesn’t mean I need to be a PIG about it, anymore.

    I left a twenty-something car saleseman a bit befuddled yesterday – it had to be the easiest sale of his life and I think he was a bit dissappointed by how little he actually had to do (the paperwork still took 2 hours so he spent a lot of that time avoiding me since we didn’t have much to talk about).

    Even if I have a hard time cutting down on my miles, I can cut down on the environmental impact of my tracks. Sure, I could probably cut my annual milage down by 5%, but why settle for that when I can cut my gasoline usage by more than 50% for the vast majority of travel!

    You just need to be willing to pay, but the ROI is faster than a lot of other things around the house (the PV panels will have to wait another year).

    2008 Prius: $18,000
    Solution to my Prius Envy: Priceless


    Comment by Bob Baron — April 30, 2010 @ 9:15 am

  3. I too am responsible for the BP disaster in the same way even though we drive around in our Prii (plural of Prius), and for mainly the same reasons.

    With oil on (another?) relentless price increase, at this moment: $85.75/bbl, one could plausibly expect some rather significant economic incentives to reduce consumption or find alternatives like the Nissan Leaf, or GM’s Volt, which would presumably also spur construction of wind and solar electric generation.

    Yes, we’re all culpable for this disaster. But it’s how we respond to this, and other far, far more important signals that will be the measure of our commitment to making change.

    Presently, we pretty much suck.

    Comment by Tom Harrison — April 30, 2010 @ 10:19 am

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