Today on MSNBC, David Schuster challenged Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) policy adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer’s claim that “we withstood hurricanes Rita and Katrina and did not spill a drop” of oil.
Schuster pointed out that “the U.S. Mineral Management Service said that Katrina and Rita caused 124 offshore spills for a total of more than 743,000 gallons of oil and refined products spilled” and asked Pfotenhauer if she wanted to “take back” what she said:
SCHUSTER: So Nancy, do you want to take back what you said?
PFOTENHAUER: Well, I actually do. I was misinformed…the point is still that we had a remarkable performance, that you had about 16,000 barrels that were lost during two of the worst storms that have ever…keep in mind David that 1,700 barrels per day naturally seeps into the ocean floor, so 365 days a year you’re at about 620,000 barrels per day, pardon me per year, that naturally seep into the ocean floor. So this is a really remarkable performance of technology.
But Pfotenhauer, a right-wing energy lobbyist, is misinformed still. According to a report from the County of Santa Barbara, CA, “the effects of seeps and spills differ hugely.” As one planner put it, “if seeps and spills are the same, why aren’t all the beaches covered with mounds of fresh tar and dead birds?”:
The key difference has to do with release rates and spatial concentration of the oil. Seeps release large amounts of oil over large areas of the ocean gradually throughout the year. Spills release large amounts of oil from a point source in a short time.