BP Oil Spill – Some Advice

By Ted Dieck | Recruiter’s View - Energy - Political Commentary - Recent | Jul 1, 2010

100,000 barrels a day ain’t no “spill.”

I’m just sayin’…

The language used in reports and responses to BP’s drilling disaster has been, umm, undisciplined.

At first, I wondered if people were just positioning themselves, using words that reflected their interests.

Eventually, I gave up on that logic. 

I suspect that we normal folks can’t really get our heads around what’s going on.  And Obama isn’t going to help.  He doesn’t want us to actually see it.  (No cameras, you know.)  So reporters, editorialists, and politicians just default to old terminology.

How can reports go public, denouncing the “greatest environmental disaster in the history of the United States,” while using terms like “spill” and “leak?”

I wish I had more time.  There’s material for an entire comedy routine, here.

Murky Measurements

Even the units of measurement got strange.  Initially, we heard about oil gushing into the Gulf in terms of barrels.  Makes sense.  That’s an industry standard term.

Then, weirdly, reporters started telling us about the damage in terms of gallons of oil.

Was that because most Americans have no clue how big a barrel is?  Gallons are easier for us to grasp?

Or did they change measurements to make things sound even worse?  What’s more dramatic?  “Leaking” a barrel of oil, or “spilling” 42 gallons of oil?

Mathematically, it’s the same.

Emotionally?  Maybe the bigger number helps make a case, but I didn’t notice a lot of consistency in that approach, either.

The Inevitable

I finally quit trying to make sense of it when I saw a major news source report “millions” had flowed into the Gulf of Mexico.  Millions of what?  Somehow, no editor caught that.

I guess, if the stories are unreliable in the first place, and the conclusions are hard to quantify, then it’s easier to communicate if you leave out all the difficult words.

We can just say it’s “Bad.  Really bad.”