The figure of 5,000 barrels a day was hastily produced by government scientists in Seattle. It appears to have been calculated using a method that is specifically not recommended for major oil spills.Scientists around the world have challenged the extremely low numbers. Apparently, now that the leak can be seen on video, more scientists have been emboldened to speak out on the lowball estimate NOAA issued.
The 5,000-barrel-a-day estimate was produced in Seattle by a NOAA unit that responds to oil spills. It was calculated with a protocol known as the Bonn convention that calls for measuring the extent of an oil spill, using its color to judge the thickness of oil atop the water, and then multiplying.
However, Alun Lewis, a British oil-spill consultant who is an authority on the Bonn convention, said the method was specifically not recommended for analyzing large spills like the one in the Gulf of Mexico, since the thickness was too difficult to judge in such a case.Even when used for smaller spills, he said, correct application of the technique would never produce a single point estimate, like the government's figure of 5,000 barrels a day, but rather a range that would likely be quite wide
One has to ask why the US government agency issued such a low estimate that didn't even list a range.
At 60,000 barrels a day, the leak produces an Exon Valdez size leak every four days, or under ten days if the leak is 25, 000. This is the worst environmental disaster event the US has ever seen. Making matters worse, we now know that under Ken Salazar, the MMS regulatory agency failed to require recent well starts to meet regulations and has repeatedly failed to register and accept scientific assesments of risks to sea life, include whales.
President Obama should immediately eliminate the MMS and replace it with a functional agency that does it's job, or, at the least, replace all the decision makers with a history of failing to meet regulatory guidelines. While president Obama is at it he should replace Ken Salazar for allowing this to happen on his watch--- and continuing to allow at least a dozen more oil well starts in the gulf SINCE the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Eric Holder should be lining up an investigation into whether the lowball estimate was an effort at coverup and for who to place criminal charges against in BP, Transocean, Haliburton and MMS.
whoops. Corrected MMI to MMS. Thanks, commenters, for the heads up.