Amounting To Nothing: What Quantity Reports By The U.S. Government And BP Really Say

In the yearlong battle to ascertain the amount spilled during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, reports from the U.S. Government and BP continue to conflict, raising questions rather than answers regarding what was spilled in 2010.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration committed to a spill amount fairly early in the game, but it has been hotly contested by BP. The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill stated that the oil company, although unable to produce a figure, claimed it had to be less. The commission cited an Oct. 22 meeting with BP, where the company adamantly disagreed. According to Bloomberg, the commission claimed:

“While BP has not released its own flow-rate estimates, it has suggested that the government’s estimate of the total amount of oil released from the Macondo well -- 4.9 million barrels -- is overstated by 20 percent to 50 percent.”

BP's silence continues through its "2010 Sustainability Review." Through a bar graph within the report, the company claimed to have spilled less oil in 2010 than it did in 2006 and 2008. 

However, the claim was only possible because, according to the report's fine print, BP decided to omit 2010 data regarding the Gulf because "no accurate determination" of the disaster's impact had been made yet. 

In figuring how much oil is still left in the ocean, officials continue to present the data in unclear terms. 

During the White House debriefing meeting on August 8, the NOAA released a report titled, “BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Budget: What Happened To the Oil?” Within, they claimed that 33 percent had been cleaned up during the spill response efforts, and more was naturally dispersing by the day.

"At least 50 percent of the oil that was released is now completely gone from the system," said NOAA Director Jane Lubchenco.

However, as The Huffington Post reported, even if the figures were correct, the 50 percent that remained in the environment would equal at least 20 times over the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

Unlike government officials, BP hasn't commented on how much is left. The only figure they have committed to is a claimed 827,000 barrels that had been captured from the site, leaving an unknown amount still in the ocean.