That confusion, of course, is exactly what BP wants. It's why the company hasn't installed a simple device on the blowout preventer pipe to measure how much oil is blowing out of the broken pipe. It's why they're pouring millions of gallons of dispersants into the oil so it will settle into lower layers of water, out of sight and out of mind, instead of floating to the surface where it can be measured and removed.
They want all this because under the clean water act they have to pay a fine of nearly $5000 per barrel of oil spilled, and if nobody knows how much has poured out into the gulf, nobody will know how much to fine them.
And, of course, the more the reality of the oil spill can be hidden - from keeping out reporters to pushing the oil underwater with dispersants - note that the Air Force is today spraying dispersants on the Gulf from the air - the less bad PR this administration will get. The less this looks like a Katrina-like disaster, the less it will politically harm President Obama.
Meanwhile, BP may be getting short on cash as their debt has been downgraded by Fitch and one of the Libyan princes is apparently among many eyeing the company as a possible takeover target.