11 June 2010

Some Perspective on the Oil Spill

I found this interesting take at LewRockwell.com:

Just for fun, I looked at how fast the Gulf of Mexico is filling with oil.

•The Gulf’s volume is approximately 2.5 quadrillion cubic meters, 660 quadrillion gallons (660,000,000,000,000,000 gallons) or 600,000 cubic miles.
•Estimates of the oil released vary from 40 million to 100 million gallons. Let’s use 66 million gallons to make the arithmetic easy.
•The amount of oil released is 1/10,000,000,000 of the volume of the Gulf (one ten billionth).
•If it has taken 53 days to release 66 million gallons, it will take 530,000,000,000 days to fill the Gulf of Mexico. That’s 1.45 billion years.
•If the earth is 4.54 billion years old, it would take 1/3 the life of the earth to fill the Gulf.
•If the universe is 13.75 billion years old, it would take 1/10 the life of the universe to fill the Gulf.


Stop! This is not possible. Here’s another view:

•Tiber field (on which the platform was drilling) contains 250,000,000 barrels of oil (at 42 gallons per barrel).
•At 66 million gallons per 53 day period, it would take 8,400 days to drain Tiber field (23 years).
•If emptied, Tiber field would cover the 615,000 square miles of the Gulf surface with 0.00098 (about 1/1000) inch of oil after 23 years.
The point of all this is perspective. We are very small so everything looks big to us. When journalists report massive oil plumes underwater, or foot deep oil collections on shore, we should be aware that things are still very, very small relative to the enormity of the Gulf of Mexico. The plumes may not actually be massive, and the oil may not be 1 foot deep everywhere. None of this is intended to excuse BP—it’s just perspective.


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If this is too rational for you, just go the opposite way and commiserate with this loon (KSDK's video won't embed, but make sure you click on it for a good idea why we as a nation are swirling around the toilet drain).

3 comments:

X said...

Yeah those whiny fisherman and people who make their living off of the tourist industry in the Gulf just need to get a little perspective. In a 100 years no one will even remember that they had their livelihoods annihilated, their lives disrupted and their homes ripped away by the negligence of BP. So stop worrying, BP will do just fine.

A Sad American said...

Stewards of the Earth, what? Drill baby drill, and when our gluttonous demand for oil blows up in our faces, kills eleven innocent workers and destroys delicate wildlife areas as well as important commercial areas we can feel safe in the knowledge that only certain parts of the Gulf have a foot deep layer of life-destroying oil. It's all relative, right?

(Pssst . . . no one was ever worried about the Gulf literally filling with oil, especially when the less than two months so far have destroyed so much of the Gulf's economy and wildlife)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Timman, I have to disagree you with on this post for two reasons, and neither of which involve me being a tree hugger (or at least I hope not, although I do like trees).

1. You're distorting (or failing to mention) a major fact here: oil and water don't mix! To compare the oil spill to the total capacity of the Gulf of Mexico makes no sense. That's like preparing to paint a room and using the dimensions of the entire room to decide how much paint you need rather than those of the walls. The concern should be how quickly that amount of oil will cover the surface of the Gulf, not how long it takes to fill it.

2. The reasons of X above.

- YoungCatholicSTL