Obama, for instance, said today that we'd never had an oil spill of this kind in the gulf before (but that 'it just takes one...'). I'm not blaming him. Nor am I necessarily blaming reporters for connecting this earlier.
But pretty much all of our modern problems can be solved much faster if the information is managed and presented to people more efficiently. I know, in that sense, I may be preachin' to the choir.
It just makes me think that a lot of these problems go away with better management, presentation (and ultimately understanding) of historical data.
Given all the information, the killer app will be something that allows us to see the history and put an event in context. I think it will pay, just look at how people start clicking links at TV Tropes or Wikipedia and don't stop.
In any case, this disaster isn't over yet, and we don't have good enough figures to say with any certainty that this is smaller than the Ixtoc spill.
This was linked from the breaking-news story.
Keyword searches are bad for stuff like this, they'll turn up tons of irrelevant information. The needles are there but they'll be buried in a haystack of lesser size than the original one, but still formidable enough to make sifting through it a non-trivial task.
Wikipedia never ceases to amaze with respect to the content you can find in it, I should learn to simply always check it no matter what the subject.
Or a NOAA incident report which provides duration and flow rate estimates for the spill which translate to the same total spill size estimates as other sources (3+ million barrels):
Or Fortune magazine:
Or a 1981 case study by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, by way of JSTOR:
Good enough for you?
BP is not letting independent scientists send instruments to measure the spill rate, although they did let scientists look at a live feed from one of their underwater cameras. Estimates vary, but some scientists are saying the spill can be several times larger than that of the Ixtoc I.
BP's figure of 5000 (which I think they've finally dropped) hasn't even been in the range of any independent estimate I've seen.
(I can say from personal experience that everyone who grew up on the Texas coast during the 80s has memories of cleaning tar from his or her feet after every visit to the beach.)
Ixtoc probably released more oil that ended up on coastlines as such; my understanding is that due to the depth, a lot of the products coming out of the Deepwater Horizon hole are getting "cracked" by the water pressure so there is less crude making it to the surface. Whether that is better or worse, I can't say -- it seems like probably better, but it could be worse for fishing and deepwater marine life, perhaps.
The thing that's most disturbing to me about Ixtoc I is how Pemex asserted sovereign immunity to avoid paying anything but the most minimal cleanup costs. BP may be a corrupt bunch of motherfuckers, but at least they don't have that to hide behind.
So was the largest spill on purpose if it wasn't accidental?
Note that that spill was about 3x larger than even the Ixtoc I spill. The scale is nearly incomprehensible.
"American airstrikes on January 26 destroyed pipelines to prevent further spillage into the Persian Gulf"
In response to the "Citation needed", a little Lexis searching returned a March 22 article from the Washington Times that lists the airstrike as January 27: "Jan. 27: U.S. aircraft fire at oil facilities in Kuwait to end the pumping of crude into the Persian Gulf."
Every time I hear the depths from which oil is extracted it makes me think the Russians might be right in with their abiogenic theory of oil formation.
The real reason for deep drilling is that the alternative easier sources are either already mostly gone or more expensive/slower to extract.
There is still plenty of "difficult" oil left. Unfortunately there are signs that most of it is not economic to extract at prices which the global economy can support. I think this is what caused the current recession and volatile oil prices, and it is only going to get worse.
See also http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6517
"After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20 percent of the world's oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world's oil reserves. And that's part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean: because we're running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water."
(see http://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewnewspaged/articleid... for full transcript.)
From the talk page:
"the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico may be 20 times the size of BP's earlier claims of 5000 barrels per day (2.4 million gallons spilled as of May 24, 2010), according to an exclusive analysis conducted for NPR."
Gulf Spill May Far Exceed Official Estimates
by Richard Harris
If that is true the speed of leakage this time was immense compared to other events, so prompt action is justified.