Horrible accident, but we’ll survive

The BP oil well leak into the Gulf of Mexico is indeed a horrible accident, but not the end of the world. The gulf is huge, covering 615,000 square miles and containing 660 quadrillion gallons of water. Assume the BP well is leaking 20,000 barrels per day and does so for 120 days (four months). That would be about 100.8 million divided by 660 quadrillion and would be one gallon of oil for every 6.6 billion gallons of water in the Gulf. That would be roughly equivalent to one-millionth of an ounce of oil in a typical bathtub of water.

The Mexican Pemex oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979 was far worse than the BP well: 140 million gallons poured out of the Mexican well. After four months, an oil slick had covered about half of Texas’ 370-mile gulf shoreline, devastating tourism.

During the first Gulf War in Kuwait (1990), 10 times as much oil spilled into the Persian Gulf, which is one-sixth the size of the Gulf of Mexico. What were the consequences? A 1993 UNESCO study reported “little” long-term damage was done to the environment. Half the oil evaporated, a million barrels were recovered and 2 million to 3 million barrels washed ashore, mainly in Saudi Arabia.

Norman Carter

Camano Island

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