The truth is no one really knows how big the spill is or how big it is going to ultimately be. The source of the oil is a really long pipe that stretched from the semi-submersible drilling rig to the floor of the sea. This pipe broke away from the rig when it sunk and has been snaking along the sea bed like a open garden hose ever since. The pipe is equipped with "choke points", which are devices that are designed to control the flow of oil through the pipe. The integrity of these choke points are a big deal right now.

According to this Christian Science Monitor story (, the scrubbing action of the sand is eroding the riser choke points. If they give way, "the flow could become unchecked resulting in a release volume an order of magnitude higher than previously thought." Translation: If these things break (and it doesn't appear there is really anything but prayer to keep this from happening at 5000 feet below the surface of the Gulf), the tens of millions of gallons of oil within the deposit will flow freely into the Gulf. This would increase the volume of oil flowing into the Gulf by at least a factor of ten.

And, while we're going from bad to worse, this Christian Science Monitor story ( explains that the oil being leaked "contains a very high concentration of components that don't degrade easily, called asphaltenes." Edward Overton, an LSU professor emeritus of environmental science, has bluntly described this fact as "bad, bad news, because this oil is going to be very slow to degrade."

To recap: The type of oil that has been flowing does not easily degrade and odds are a whole lot more of it will soon enter the Gulf.


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