Oil by the gallon

Regarding the media’s conversion of units to make a recent oil spill seem more severe than it may be... An underground oil pipeline ruptured Tuesday in California, spilling 500 barrels of oil into the ocean (by U.S. Coast Guard estimates).  Unimpressed by the numbers, some in the media felt that converting this to 21,000 gallons made for more compelling headlines.  They could have just said “about the volume of an average backyard swimming pool." The damage from any oil spilled is not to be diminished, but clarifying the scale rather than distorting it seems more helpful. For comparison, the Exxon-Valdez spill off Alaska in 1989 was 260,000 barrels, and the BP Deepwater Horizon well lost perhaps 4.9 million barrels – or 210,000,000 gallons, if you prefer.(Read Full Post)