Article Comment 

Putting 126.3 million gallons of oil into context


The Associated Press



WASHINGTON -- Overwhelmed and saddened by the gargantuan size of the Gulf oil spill? 


A little mathematical context to the spill size can put the environmental catastrophe in perspective. Viewing it through some lenses, it isn''t that huge. The Mississippi River pours as much water into the Gulf of Mexico in 38 seconds as the BP oil leak has done in two months. 


On a more human scale, the spill seems more daunting. Take the average-sized living room. The amount of oil spilled would fill 9,200 of them. 


Since the BP oil rig exploded on April 20, about 126.3 million gallons of oil has gushed into the Gulf. That calculation is based on the higher end of the government''s range of barrels leaked per day and the oil company BP''s calculations for the amount of oil siphoned off as of Monday morning. Using the more optimistic end of calculations, the total spill figure is just shy of 68 million gallons. 


For this by-the-numbers exercise, The Associated Press is using the higher figure. 


For every gallon of oil that BP''s well has gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, there is more than 5 billion gallons of water already in it. And the mighty Mississippi adds another billion gallons every five minutes or so, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 


So BP chief executive officer Tony Hayward was factually correct last month when he said the spill was "relatively tiny" compared to what he mischaracterized as a "very big ocean." 


But another big number that Hayward provided on Thursday also offers some troubling news. He said the reservoir of oil under the sea that is the source for the leak is believed to hold about 2.1 billion gallons of oil. That leaves about 2 billion gallons left to spew. So there are about 16 gallons of oil underneath the sea floor yet to gush for every gallon that has already fouled the Gulf. If the problem were never fixed, that would mean another two years of oil spilling based on the current flow rate. 


More not-so-dreadful context: The amount of oil spilled so far could only fill the cavernous New Orleans Superdome about one-seventh of the way up. On the other hand, it could fill 15 Washington Monuments and two-thirds of the way up a 16th. If the oil were poured on a football field -- complete with endzones -- it would measure nearly 100 yards high. 


If you put the oil in gallon milk jugs and lined them up, they would stretch about 11,000 miles. That''s a roundtrip from the Gulf to London, BP''s headquarters, and a side trip from New Orleans to Washington for Hayward to testify. 


BP has spent more than $54.8 million lobbying federal officials in Washington since 2000; that''s about 43 cents for every gallon of oil it has spilled. Since 2000, the oil and gas industry -- along with their employees -- has contributed $154.2 million to candidates for federal office. That''s $1.22 for each gallon of oil spilled. Of that money, 78 percent went to Republicans and the rest to Democrats. 


Take the 126.3 million gallons of oil spilled in the Gulf and convert it to gasoline, which is what Americans mostly use it for. That produces 58.6 million gallons of gas -- the amount American drivers burn every three hours and 43 minutes. It''s enough to fill up the gas tanks in nearly 3.7 million cars -- more than those in Louisiana and Mississippi combined. 


At $2.75 a gallon for gas -- the national average -- that''s more than $161 million worth spilled into the Gulf. 


Want your own piece of this spill? If all the oil spilled were divided up and equal amounts given to every American, we would all get about four soda cans full of crude oil that no one really wants.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment wallerby commented at 6/21/2010 5:46:00 PM:

Last time I checked the Mississippi River was a mile wide, a hundred feet deep, and slightly less toxic than crude oil (even on a bad day).


Article Comment shwilliams commented at 6/22/2010 9:45:00 AM:

In reading the Associated Press article, seems the author is downplaying the oil spill and the impact on our lives. How many football stadiums or living rooms the oil could fill are emotionless statements. Lets put this into perspective shall we. How many fisherman cry everyday because their way of live has been destroyed? How many people are losing income because business has dropped from tourism? Everyday pelicans, turtles and other wildlife are taken to centers in hopes the oil can be cleaned away, so they will survive.Four hundred fifty dead turtles have washed ashore along the gulf. The oil continues to gush at 60 to 100,000 barrels a day. People along the gulf could not care less what the media compares the oil spill to in reference to something larger than it.The lives changed, wildlife killed and the lives of those eleven on the Deep Horizon rig that lost their lives are the only facts that matter.BP is also using toxic Corexit in the gulf waters which is banned in the UK. There are reports BP owns stock in the company that produces Corexit. Corexit has never been tested for toxcity in this large amount used in the gulf. BP has used more Corexit in the gulf than ever in US history. With Corexit being one molecule away from anti freeze no wonder wildlife are dying. So not only does the gulf have to contend with the oil but the toxcity of the Corexit. Corexit is well documented of causing numermous health problems, from respiratory to liver and kidney failure. In my opinion people who continue to allow their children in the gulf do not know the facts or just overlooking them for the sake of their vacation to the beach.
Destin Florida


Article Comment kj commented at 6/22/2010 1:32:00 PM:

Oh, thank goodness. And here I was worried that enough had spilled to spoil, for the rest of my life, the inland wetlands that I first fished with my dad nearly 40 years ago. Oh wait...that's already happened. How many cans per ruined life is it?


Article Comment sharp nasal kent commented at 6/22/2010 5:58:00 PM:

"The amount of oil spilled so far could only fill the cavernous New Orleans Superdome about one-seventh of the way up. On the other hand, it could fill 15 Washington Monuments and two-thirds of the way up a 16th. If the oil were poured on a football field -- complete with endzones -- it would measure nearly 100 yards high."

BP rejected the Washington Monument solution because of the expense of building 14 more Washington Monuments.

Their engineers and accountants are presently determining which of the remaining two options is the best.


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