NOAA map showing 3,858 oil platforms along the gulf coast as of October, 2006. Katrina and other hurricanes sank or otherwise disabled over 100 of them the year before.
I was surprised to see how many there were, but I guess I shouldn’t have been. Prior to this calamity my two main sources of knowledge regarding oil production were There Will Be Blood and certain scenes from Armageddon. I’ve been trying to acquaint myself with some actual data.
I learned that we rank third in oil production in the world and that a third of our production happens off shore. We account for about a quarter of world consumption and a tenth of production (behind Saudi Arabia and Russia). Almost half our supply is used to make gasoline. BP is the fourth biggest company in the world but the third biggest oil company after Shell and Exxon.
I was horrified to read about another spill that happened earlier this month in Nigeria that seems to be amongst the worst ever and has yet to receive much media attention at all. That’s apparently par for the course there.
The Exxon Valdez is 31st in the world ranking of all time oil spills, and since it happened it’s become the “Library of Congress” to which all other spills are inevitably compared. This is quite useful because frankly there’s too many units available for talking about oil and it seems like every news source uses a different one. Wikipedia has tonnage but the American media generally prefers gallons, and the oil industry itself uses barrels. It’s difficult to compare and contrast the horror without converting to a common base. One “Exxon Valdez” is reasonable shorthand for “enough oil to fuck shit up”.
The exact quantities are always fuzzy, of course. The NY Times reports a range of anywhere from two and a quarter Exxon Valdezes all the way up to nine for the Gulf so far, and that’s under the glare of the American public. The one in Nigeria was supposedly two and half, but who knows. The US produces 19.5 EVs every day.
Not that it’s any comfort, but we still haven’t reached the proportions of the Gulf War spill, which was an astounding 43 EVs. If the one in our own gulf keeps going through August at the most pessimistic rate we could easily see another 20, three times as much as now.
CNN has a good map and USA Today has a good article illustrating the current offshore leasing situation by state. It’s easy to imagine oil executives seeing the planet’s surface as a real life Starcraft map. If we’re lucky, someone will tell them about the hundred billion dollars for every human being on Earth lying in the minerals of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Is it asking so much for underwater aliens à la The Abyss to reveal themselves to humanity and show us the error of our ways?