How Much Oil Really Spilled?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Transcript

On the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Southwest Alaska, the media reported, as they have since the disaster happened, that the amount of oil spilled was 11 million gallons. In 2010, Brooke spoke with Riki Ott - a marine toxicologist and author - who explained that the 11 million number is in fact a disputed figure the media have incorrectly adopted.

 

Guests:

Riki Ott

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [4]

Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

I think the press's not getting this right is less suspicious. If we compare a new story where it was 10 or 30 children killed by a madman, to 10 0r 30 million gallons of oil, you can see for the former, we can easily grasp the significance - with the oil, not so much.

Apr. 01 2014 02:38 PM
Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

I think the press's not getting this right is less suspicious. If we compare a new story where it was 10 or 30 children killed by a madman, to 10 0r 30 million gallons of oil, you can see for the former, we can easily grasp the significance - with the oil, not so much.

Apr. 01 2014 02:38 PM
Tom Whitmore from Seattle WA

Okay. Adding together the 19 million gallons of water to the 11 million gallons of oil reported as spilled makes absolutely no sense. There's a really strong argument that the 19 million gallons of water represents a plausible reasonable minimum for the spill -- raise it a bit (also likely) and the number gets to twice the reported number, not three times. Ott has a very real point, but she's reaching well beyond what her statistics show. It makes no sense for the ship to have been traveling under so low a load that the 19 million gallons isn't a good estimate of the oil displaced by the water; these ships almost never travel light. And the water would displace the oil at least a little -- hence my raising it to around 20-22 million gallons. But that water had to displace something in the tanks -- and none of us think it was likely to be air.

And her comment about the distraction of "There may have been alcohol involved" is incredibly important, and worth all our attention. That's where the real importance of this story lies, not in the number.

Mar. 31 2014 12:19 AM
DIYinSTL from United States

The only surprise in this story is that journalists, who typically are poorly educated, lazy, and through conceit very biased, sided with the conservative number instead of an inflated one. Not much difference than when the administration said that more than 80% of Mexican drug gangs' guns were from the U.S.; it takes very little research to show the number is really about 12% but the press just accepted it and parroted the number without any fact checking. And as one newspaper editor said to my face "To hell with the truth ... ."

Mar. 30 2014 06:57 PM

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