As Obama scolds BP, debate brews over how much oil is leaking
Government and BP estimates of the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico are too low, say scientists. Some equate the flow to one Exxon Valdez spill every five days.
As crude oil pours into the Gulf of Mexico from a drill-rig blowout nearly a mile beneath the sea surface, the frustration at the slow pace of mitigation efforts is palpable – from the president of the United States to marine scientists trying to gauge the true scope of the problem and its likely short and long-term effects.Skip to next paragraph
Up to now, no one has had to deal with a spill this large at this depth – some 5,000 feet below the surface. The blow-out occurred April 20, its explosion and fire killing 11 workers and sinking the Deepwater Horizon, the drilling platform for an exploratory well some 40 miles off the Louisiana coast.
Moreover, the complexities of the ocean environment the oil is entering make efforts to project the plume's spread difficult, Dr. Mariano says. And the broader effects of using hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemical dispersants – some of which are being applied deep undersea at the wellhead – are unclear.
Flanked by cabinet members and other administration officials overseeing the federal response to the blow-out, he lit into industry representatives who appeared at congressional hearings on the spill earlier this week.
"I did not appreciate what I consider to be a ridiculous spectacle during congressional hearings into this matter," he said. "You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else."
Nor did federal regulators escape the tongue-lashing. The president criticized what he termed "a cozy relationship" between oil companies and federal regulators in which "permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from oil companies" and oil companies exploited loopholes that "allowed some oil companies to bypass some critical environmental reviews," Obama said.