Tony Hayward, BP CEO, will never live these words down:
In an bullish interview with the Guardian at BP's crisis centre in Houston, Hayward insisted that the leaked oil and the estimated 400,000 gallons of dispersant that BP has pumped into the sea to try to tackle the slick should be put in context.
"The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume," he said.
Does he really think we're that stupid? Sure, the ratio of oil to water is low. But when that oil spreads out, creating a slick that covers thousands of square miles, and spreading across the Gulf Coast, what possible relevance does that have? By his logic, the Earth is tiny relative the solar system, so that must mean the oil leak is really, really tiny, right? And the tiny size of a few spores of anthrax must mean there's no cause for alarm if you get a dose of it, right? And isn't it great that the amount of material in a nuclear warhead is so small? There's nothing to worry about, right? Heck, why have they even bothered to close fishing in the Gulf? It's just a tiny spill. Why is everybody overreacting?
Hayward would love for us to forget about the fact that nobody really knows how big the damn leak is, except that it's bigger than we think. Dan Froomkin reports it could be ten times worse than current official estimates. And those estimates are five times bigger than BP's first estimate. But in Hayward's mind, even though the oil might be gushing at fifty times the rate his company originally claimed, it's still a "tiny" leak.
In the three weeks since the leak began, our initial focus has been on what we can see, but we're now finding out there may be a huge plume of oil lurking below the surface. Unfortunately, we're not learning that from officials supposedly responsible for containing and cleaning up the leak. Instead, we're learning it from independent researchers looking at what's going on below the surface.
The plume lurking below the surface supports the view that the leak is much bigger than the 5,000 barrels per day currently being estimated. If it hasn't already, it's certain to become the largest oil spill in American history. The only question is how big it will ultimately be, but nobody has the answer to that.
Nonetheless, In the Guardian interview linked above, Hayward pledged that BP will restore things to exactly the way they were before the leak began flowing.
We will fix it. I guarantee it.
But he's got a caveat:
The only question is we do not know when.
That's a pretty fucking big caveat given, especially given BP's ongoing campaign to minimize the size of the leak. If you ever needed proof that we have no business drilling in the deep sea, Tony Hayward just provided it, right there in that quote.