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Gulf spill put in perspective

June 22, 2010
The Associated Press has put the Gulf oil leak in perspective, pointing out the amount of oil spilled into the Gulf would fill the New Orleans Superdome just one-seventh of the way up.

More alarming is the fact that the estimated 126 million gallons of oil now in the Gulf would convert to 58.6 million gallons of gasoline, which Americans would burn through in three hours.

From the Associated Press via

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 leak has released in oil in two months.

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

Since the BP oil rig exploded April 20, about 126.3 million gallons of oil have gushed into the Gulf. That calculation is based on the higher end of the government's range of barrels leaked per day and 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 River 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.”
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