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Dottie Perry
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How Much is Too Much?

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While it is undisputed that there are a continuing litany of errors associated with BP’s handling of the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, there is one gross oversight no one seems to be calling them out on: measuring the size of the spill.

Why is there no current, accurate measurement of the amount of oil that has and continues to flow from the BP/Transocean well? Won’t the amount of oil dictate the size of response necessary? If we’ve learned anything from this and other massive oil spills, it’s that a lot of preparation is required to properly handle the after-effects. Those undertaking proactive efforts can’t properly anticipate the size of response necessary without this vital information.

The Tampa Tribune reported this week that BP, the party responsible for picking up the cleaning bill, hasn’t really got a clue, nor does it seem to want one:

"BP could use established scientific methods to measure the flow if it chose to do so, said Rich Camilli, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. One technique, for example, would use sonar in a manner quite similar to sonograms used in medical diagnostics, he said. Or BP could use the containment dome that was lowered to the sea bottom as a kind of measuring device.

"More information is always better. Right now there’s only a very sketchy idea as to what the flow rates are. It’s important to have very accurate numbers, if nothing else to scale the response for the oil slick," Camilli said.

The official number for the rate of oil leaking is 5,000 barrels a day. The figure, announced April 28 by the Coast Guard, is a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration estimate, based on aerial imagery and scrutiny of video from the sea bottom. Officials have repeatedly tried to back away from the suspiciously round figure.

Jane Lubchenco, the NOAA administrator, told the Post that the estimate should be considered "5,000 barrels-ish."

Two weeks ago, an outside researcher, oceanographer Ian MacDonald of Florida State University, used satellite images to produce an estimate of 26,000 barrels of oil a day. But MacDonald says that’s a rough estimate."

Emphasis added.