One Question I Haven’t Seen Answered in the Gallons of Ink Spilled on BP.

Can we afford to lose the oil?

That’s something I haven’t seen any news story address.

Plenty of coverage of the environmental catastrophe, as there should be. The environmental catastrophe is unprecedented.

But no one (that I have seen, and I’ve been looking) has answered this question: “If, as seems likely, the oil keeps gushing until August, will we have enough other oil to keep the country running? Do these millions and millions of gallons of oil that we’re losing represent a significant amount of the nation’s oil supply, such that factories will have to shut down, we’ll have to stop driving, and energy prices are going to spike? Or is none of that true—is it instead the case that, colossal as this loss of oil seems, it’s just a drop in the barrel compared to what we have?”

It seems like an important question. It might have a simple answer (“yes, don’t worry, there’ll still be enough oil”), but if so, I’d like to know it. I’m not sure why I’m the only one asking it.

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5 Comments on “One Question I Haven’t Seen Answered in the Gallons of Ink Spilled on BP.”

  1. Rovronr says:

    Actually, Ted, some facts answering your questions are fairly easily available on the ‘Internets’:
    Amount of spill as of June 3:
    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/01/us/20100501-oil-spill-tracker.html?hp
    Comparison of various sources of oceanic oil:
    http://oceanworld.tamu.edu/resources/oceanography-book/oilspills.htm
    U.S. daily oil consumption per the CIA:
    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2174rank.html
    I suspect we’re not seeing Walmart cutting back on their air conditioning in a panic, or the Eisenhower expressway becoming clear sailing in rush hour has more to do with the fact that we’re lazy assholes when it comes to petroleum use, than the idea that the Gulf leak will pinch our supplies.
    Yes. It’s a drop in the barrel.
    Hope this helps.

  2. Ted Naron says:

    Thanks for this. Your CIA link says that the U.S. uses just under 20 million barrels a day. I used the internets to find out that there are 42 gallons in a barrel — therefore, we use 840 million gallons in a day. The NYT link you provided says the worst case scenario of oil spilled in the Gulf by June 3 is 110 million gallons, or roughly 12.5% of the amount of oil we use in just one day, or roughly 3 hours’ worth. Of course, that’s only as of yesterday. If the Gulf keeps gushing oil till August, we can assume another 3X times the amount that’s been lost so far, but even that comes to only 12 hours’ worth. So no matter how bad this gets (in terms of loss of oil), we’re looking at half of one day’s U.S. consumption, at the worst, by the time it’s over. We probably should have a national “turn off your AC for half a day” day when this thing is all done, just so we feel like we’re doing something.

    • Rovronr says:

      Ted, you’ve hit on a brilliant idea.
      We ought to have a Fight Back at BP day.
      Do the metrics to find out the total gasoline consumption for the U.S. per hour, and suspend all gas purchases at BP gas stations to punish them two times or three times the quantity of oil they’ve dumped in the Gulf.
      That’s the rough idea. Refinements invited.

      • Ted Naron says:

        I like that idea.

        I wonder how much it’s already happening. I mean, I know that I haven’t bought any gas at a BP since this thing started, and I easily could have. (I used to split my buying between BP and Shell, since those are the two brands with multiple gas stations near me.) I’d bet quite a few million other people are “voting” the same way as me with their wheels. So that’s another story I’m not seeing covered in the press: How much decline has occured in BP gas station sales in America?

  3. […] Dyer, in a comment on my post of June 2, has a good idea for a national “buy gas somewhere else than BP […]


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