May 13, 2010

Well, BP has released the video of that oil wellhead pouring crude into the Gulf of Mexico, and brother, does it give you pause. Someone at YouTube even obtained the deep-sea audio that goes with it.

How much is it? Joel Achenbach at the Washington Post reports:

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.

The "official" estimates -- which have been ridiculously low from the start -- now are that the leak is spilling "just" 5,000 barrels a day into the Gulf. However, as Achenbach notes:

Two weeks ago, an outside researcher, oceanographer Ian MacDonald of Florida State University, used satellite images gathered by the organization SkyTruth to produce an estimate of 26,000 barrels of oil a day. But MacDonald has made clear that it's a rough estimate and hasn't been subjected to scientific peer review.

Oddly enough, the story is raising little concern so far among the public -- mainly, we'd guess, because the oil hasn't hit the beaches yet. Frank Newport at Gallup reports:

No sign of any major uptick in concern about the environment, energy, or gas prices as a result of the Gulf oil spill. Yet. Our May update on most important problem facing the country, in the field last week, shows no change in the small number of people mentioning any of these issues.

Laura Parker at AOL News outlines three likely scenarios. I'm guessing we're looking at No. 3, but that's just me.

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