Deepwater Horizon: The Worst-Case Scenario
by Richard Heinberg
Reports from the Gulf of Mexico just keep getting worse. Estimates of the rate of oil spillage from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead just keep gushing (the latest official number: up to 60,000 barrels per day). Forecasts for how long it will take before the leak is finally plugged continue pluming toward August—maybe even December. In addition to the oil itself, BP has (in this case deliberately) spilled a million gallons of toxic Corexit dispersant. Biologists’ accounts of the devastation being wreaked on fish, birds, amphibians, turtles, coral reefs, and marshes grow more apocalyptic by the day—especially in view of the fact that the vast majority of animal victims die alone and uncounted. Warnings are now being raised that the natural gas being vented along with the oil will significantly extend the giant dead zones in the Gulf. And guesses as to the ultimate economic toll of this still-unfolding tragedy—on everything from the tourism and fishing industries of at least five coastal states to the pensioners in Britain whose futures are at risk if BP files for bankruptcy or is taken over by a Chinese oil company—surge every time an analyst steps back to consider the situation from another angle.
We all want the least-bad outcome here. But what if events continue on the current trajectory—that is, what if the situation keeps deteriorating? Just how awful could this get?