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Deepwater Horizon Disaster

May 04, 2010

A busy start to the week here, but I've kept an eye glued to my feeds for news about the eco-disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. (I noticed that the Murdoch-owned New York Post pushed its coverage of the mega-spill to page 19 -- after items about one of Tiger Woods's bimbos, a fashion gala here in New York, and a Bernie Madoff settlement story.)

How big is the mess and what's it going to cost to clean it up? This infographic courtesy of the GOOD blog puts it into some perspective (h/t @wilderness).

Good_oilspill_graphic
 

And that may be understating things. This post by Noah Kunin on the Sunlight Foundation blog suggests the 5,000-barrels-a-day number widely cited as the amount of oil the busted well is discharging into the Gulf "is not even in the ballpark of the actual figure." Kunin bases his charge on a comparison of the spreading BP slick with the 741,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf from offshore drilling platforms as a result of Hurricane Katrina -- and backs it up with some pretty impressive charts and maps.

Of course, trying to cap a blown-out well 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf is a monumental challenge, which means this disaster could get a lot worse before it's "over." And even then, the environmental and economic impacts caused by the spill could be with us for years, if not generations, to come. To help capture some of those impacts, the folks at ESRI, the GIS software giant, have created this Gulf Oil Spill Map that allows users to add points on the map linked to online photos, Web sites, and YouTube videos. Check it out -- and spread the word.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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It's interesting to return weeks later to this post. The remark by Noah Kunin that the 5,000 barrel-a-day figure isn't in the ballpark is almost painful in its accuracy, now that the figure is almost certainly well beyond 50,000 barrels a day. I recognize that the current flow is after the cutting of the riser, but still, it's hard to believe how this story has evolved over the weeks.

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