Scientists to BP: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!”

Official gusher estimates finally reach levels reported 6 weeks ago

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water.

Back on May 1, Climate Progress reported “Oilpocalypse Now: WSJ reports BP oil disaster may be leaking at rate of 1 million gallons a day.” Self-deluded BP has been lying to itself and others, lowballing the leak rate — and concealing the images needed for independent analysis — for far too long. The result has been a wholly inadequate response that comes straight out of the the mother of all disaster movies.

Finally USGS Director Marcia McNutt, “who leads the teams of scientists collectively known as the Flow Rate Technical Group” admits of the recent estimates:

These numbers are all over the board,” she said in a conference call with reporters. In response to a question, McNutt said that 20,000 to 40,000 barrels is the most plausible range, but she emphasized that the findings are preliminary and that the techniques have inherent limitations.

The flow rate is significant on several fronts. First, it gives the government and BP a sense of how much capacity they’ll need among surface ships to handle all the oil gushing out of the well and up a pipe to the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship, which is capable of processing about 18,000 barrels a day. Other ships are being added to the effort.

I’ll give WashPost’s Joel Achenbach and Juliet Eilperin first credit for the reference to Jaws in their front-page story

The one scientific certainty: It’s a lot — and more than some of the same scientists thought just a couple of weeks ago. It’s so much that the crews trying to siphon it to the surface are going to need a bigger boat.

But that is a tad too sly — particularly for a 25-year-old movie — no doubt because this is actually a straight news story, even if Achenbach has tried to insert a lighter tone that is his trademark.

But the reference to the 1975 thriller seems apt on many levels — some people really don’t want to close beaches that people should not be swimming in (see Barbour downplays BP oil disaster again: “The coast is clear, come on down!” “” blames media for “misperception of what is going on down here”).

Since many CP readers are too young to have seen Jaws, here it is — in 60 seconds: