By Frank James
Spurred by NPR's report that the oil gushing from the uncapped well a mile under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico is flowing out at a far faster rate than the 5,000 barrels a day estimate by BP and the Coast Guard, Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is demanding that the energy giant tell him how it came up with its number.
Markey, chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, sent a letter to BP America president and CEO Lamar McKay.
BP's current estimate for the amount of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon spill is 5,000 barrels per day. BP's initial estimate for the amount of oil flowing into the gulf was 1,000 barrels per day. At a briefing provided to members of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Mr. Dave Rainey of BP indicated that a maximum flow from the well, if uncontrolled, would be approximately 60,000 barrels per day, with a midrange estimate of 40,000 barrels per day from an uncontrolled release. At the hearing of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, on May 11, you reaffirmed the 5,000 barrels per day estimate.
Recent news reports indicate that the actual amount of oil being released into the Gulf of Mexico could be upwards of 70,000 barrels per day. As reported by National Public Radio, an independent scientific analysis concluded that, with a plus or minus 20 percent accuracy rate, the flow could range from 56,000 barrels per day, up to 84,000 barrels per day. Other estimates reported in the media also indicate that the well could be releasing 4 to 5 times as much oil as is currently being reported.
The public needs to know the answers to very basic questions: how much oil is leaking into the Gulf and how much oil can be expected to end up on our shores and our ocean environment? I am concerned that an underestimation of the flow may be impeding the ability to solve the leak and handle management of the disaster. We have already had one estimate that grossly underestimated the amount of oil being released and we cannot afford to have another.