The recent explosion of Deepwater Horizon and subsequent venting of crude oil has garnered a lot of coverage lately, and rightly so. However, there's an interesting perspective to this story that I think has been overlooked.
Consider that the estimated minimum leakage rate is 5,000 barrels of crude oil every day (according to Reuters). Is this a lot? The daily consumption of petroleum in the US is somewhere around 19,500,000 (2008 data, from EIA); 5,000 barrels is 0.00026% of our daily consumption of refined petroleum.
There's a really important point in this: a sleight 5,000 barrels of crude oil per day seeping into the ocean is enough to do quite a bit of damage. With that in mind, doesn't it seem reasonable that the gases seeping into the air from burning 19,500,000 barrels every single day would probably have some consequences?
If only all consequences were as obvious as tar covered wildlife washing onto our doorsteps. There was a time, not long ago, that we could get away with pretending that the Earth was an infallible provider of infinite resources. That time has now passed, and the oblivious industrious bustle of humanity elicits tacit threats of autocataclysmic destabilization, by endeavors of awe-some magnitude undertaken at unprecedented pace with slightest regard for the fragile ecosystem from which we emerged. I'm immensely saddened to see the failure to prioritize the maintenance of viability for life on Earth, particularly when it is overlooked for something as senseless as one more quarter of profitability. If only corporations were most interested in ensuring the future of life, if only...
New estimates place the rate of flow around 200,000 barrels a day. Even though that's a mind boggling amount of oil, it's still only 1% of the daily US consumption--and worldwide consumption is a fair bit more than that.