Lacy MacAuley

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a home for my pen, projects, and passions

measuring the oil spill, coming out of the dark ages

Finally today, sensors are being deployed to determine the actual oil flow in the Gulf. How novel, measurements.

BP executives and their PR lackees are likely sitting on the edges of their seats right now, waiting for the world to discover just how much they’ve been under-estimating the oil flow. Even with the “spill cam,” estimates of the flow rate vary wildly.

The fact that it has taken this long to simply decide to measure the plumes of oil billowing into our waters should make you furious. Not measuring the amount of oil? Are we back in the Dark Ages? Are we back in the early ages of maritime travel, when sailors attributed currents and waves to sea monsters, believed in mermaids, and relied on the stars to navigate? In today’s world, the first step to knowing anything in the world of engineering, crisis management, or resource extraction is to find a unit of measure and quantify it.

Without quantifying the oil gushing, BP may just as well be spewing fiction on the high seas to rival Sinbad the Sailor or Gulliver’s Travels.

BP has been hiding behind data that shows how much they can collect each day – about 15,000 barrels per day with their nifty boat that separates oil from water. Follow its propoganda and you’ll get regular updates about how much oil they’re collecting. I find their updates totally inappropriate. I imagine them jumping up and down as the oil rolls in with dollar signs in their eyes, to the cash register sound of “kaching! kaching!”

That they focus so much on quantifying their oil collection reveals their true character. They are a profit-driven entity, and it’s not profitable to collect ALL of the oil. They would likely be just as happy collecting SOME or MOST of it. As has been shown in the last eight weeks, it is very expensive to collect all of the oil. They’re happy letting a lot of oil continue to slosh out into our water. Which is why they’ve had to be ordered by the US Government to allow sensors to measure the oil flow.

Without knowing how much oil is not being captured, none of us know whether to be happy about their oil collection. BP could just sit idly by collecting most of the oil but allowing a lot of it out, making the oil spill sea monster grow larger and larger.

Hence, measurements.

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