At first, right after the BP Deepwater Horizon offshore rig exploded on April 20, BP and U.S. government officials reported the underwater well was pumping about 1,000 barrels a day into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. A few days later, that figure was challenged by the non-profit group SkyTruth, which uses remote sensing and digital mapping to evaluate environmental issues globally. Ten days later, by April 30, some industry experts said the well could be leaking at a rate of 5,000 barrels daily -- five times the previous estimate, and the one that has been the most widely and persistently used in the media.
Wildly Disparate Estimates
But estimates continue to change. On May 4th, BP executives in a closed-door meeting reportedly told Congress that the well is discharging anywhere from 5,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf per day. At 42 U.S. gallons per barrel, that means the spill could be growing by 210,000 to 2.52 million gallons of oil each day. But how much is that, really?