BP Chief: Oil Spill Is 'Relatively Tiny'

Even as NPR and other news outlets report that the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico may be far greater than has been thought, BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward is now on record as saying the ongoing spill from a rig his company was responsible for is "relatively tiny," The Guardian reports.

It adds that:

"In an bullish interview with the Guardian at BP's crisis center in Houston, Hayward insisted that the leaked oil and the estimated 400,000 gallons of dispersant that BP has pumped into the sea to try to tackle the slick should be put in context.

" 'The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume,' he said."

On CBS News' The Early Show this morning, BP's chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, said the company still believes that the estimate that has been used since shortly after the April 20 accident — that about 5,000 barrels of oil a day are flowing into the Gulf — is "a reasonable estimate, but it's highly uncertain."

As NPR reported yesterday, some experts say about 70,000 barrels a day (mostly of oil, but mixed with some natural gas) may be going into the water. A barrel holds 42 gallons. So 70,000 barrels would hold about 2.9 million gallons.

On All Things Considered last evening, NPR's Richard Harris explained why knowing the size of the spill is important:

"Well, we already know that there's an enormous amount of oil slick in the gulf. I mean clean-up efforts focus on the oil they can see on the surface, and this number doesn't change the amount of oil they see on the surface clearly. So, in that regard, it doesn't make that much difference.

"But it could make a difference at the wellhead. BP does want to have a pretty good idea. They should want to know how much oil they're dealing with as they fight this problem at the bottom of the sea."

Here's the conversation Richard had with ATC's Michele Norris:



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Update at 8:40 a.m. ET. Hayward's words call for a question:



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