Friday, May 14, 2010

Obama scolds BP

President Obama vented his frustration Friday during a statement to the press he issued from the White House Rose Garden.

Flanked by cabinet members and other administration officials overseeing the federal response to the blow-out, he lit into industry representatives who appeared at congressional hearings on the spill earlier this week.

"I did not appreciate what I consider to be a ridiculous spectacle during congressional hearings into this matter," he said. "You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else."

Nor did federal regulators escape the tongue-lashing. The president criticized what he termed "a cozy relationship" between oil companies and federal regulators in which "permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from oil companies" and oil companies exploited loopholes that "allowed some oil companies to bypass some critical environmental reviews," Obama said.

Part of the challenge – and the frustration – in coping with the blow-out lies in determining just how much oil the submarine gusher is releasing.

Official estimates from the federal government and BP, which owns the oil lease the Deepwater Horizon was working, place the leak rate at some 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) of oil a day. That alone is has been enough to trigger a regional emergency response.

But independent experts say the leak rate is likely to be much larger.

A week ago, Florida State University marine scientist Ian McDonald put the leak rate at around 25,000 barrels a day.

And in a report Friday morning, National Public Radio cited estimates from three independent scientists who say at least 50,000 barrels of oil a day are flowing into the Gulf waters. That would imply that the Deepwater Horizon disaster could be releasing at least the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez spill every five days.

These estimates have wide margins of error, cautions Timothy Crone, a scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.

In an email exchange, Dr. Crone, one of the three scientists NPR contacted, noted that his approach honed on estimating the material spewing from deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

He says that videos of the blow-out taken by robotic cameras at the well head lack the detail needed for more precise estimates of the flow. Moreover, the material emerging from the well head is a mix of methane, mud, and oil.

Taking all that into account, he puts the flow rate at roughly 50,000 barrels of oil a day.

"My numbers should be viewed with caution," he warns, but adds, "the flows are almost certainly higher than 5,000 barrels a day."

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Hayward applauds President's statement on oil spill
Release Date: 02 May 2010
“The US government leadership here has been excellent since day one. I agree with the President that the top priority right now is to stop the leak and mitigate the damage. I reiterated my commitment to the White House today that BP will do anything and everything we can to stop the leak, attack the spill off shore, and protect the shorelines of the Gulf Coast. We appreciate the tireless efforts of the many federal, state and local responders and the volunteers, men and women who have worked tirelessly since the date of the accident to mitigate the damage. Our teams are working hand in hand and we look forward to hearing more recommendations for action from the President’s visit today.”

-Tony Hayward, from Houma, Louisiana

Hayward Comments on President Obama's Statement
Release Date: 14 May 2010
Tony Hayward, BP Group Chief Executive, today said:

“We absolutely understand and share President Obama’s sense of urgency over the length of time this complex task is taking. We want to thank the President and his administration for their ongoing engagement in this effort.

“BP - working closely with scientists and engineers from across the whole oil industry, from government agencies and departments, and with local officials along the Gulf Coast - is focused on doing everything in our power to stop the flow of oil, remove it from the surface, and protect the shoreline. We are working with state and community leaders to mitigate the impact on the lives and livelihoods of those who have been affected.

“And while we continue in these efforts, we are participating fully in investigations that will provide valuable lessons about how to prevent future incidents of this nature.”

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