The Obama administration’s relentless attempt to manufacture and take undue credit for good news has spilled (sorry) over into the Gulf of Mexico, where climate and energy “czar” Carol Browner claims that “more than three-quarters of the oil is gone.” As David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post does a nice job showing, that claim is unsubstantiated and almost certainly false.
The first problem is that, on its face, the government report on the status of the spilled oil doesn’t support Browner’s claim. At best, says Fahrenthold, the report indicates that three quarters of the oil could be on its way out of the Gulf, not that it has vanished.
The second problem is that scientists who worked on the report don’t really stand behind even the claim that three-quarters of the oil is on its way out. They admitted to the Post that the figure is based on assumptions and estimates with a significant margin of error.
Indeed, the report’s author acknowledged that the analysis does not even attempt to measure or calculate what’s actually happening in the Gulf. Thus, it is understandable that one researcher who worked on the report said he would not have included figures about how much oil is gone or on its way out. “We don’t have the foggiest idea [about how to measure the oil] with that precision,” he explained.
The third problem is that some outside scientists believe that the flaws in the report extend beyond making speculative claims sound too authoritative. According to the Post, some scientists accuse the government of using interpretations designed to make the gulf — and the government — look as good as possible. Ian MacDonald, a professor of biological oceanography at Florida State says “there’s a lot of. . .smoke and mirrors in [the government’s] report”. Though “it seems very reassuring, the data aren’t there to actually bear out the assurances that were made.”
Michael Blum of Tulane was similarly dismissive of the report. He noted that, although the situation “is being portrayed as the oil [being] out of the system – gone,” in reality “the form of the oil has shifted.” After all, “dispersed oil is still oil.”
But even if the government’s phony three-quarters estimate were credible, that would still be 1.3 million barrels of oil still in the Gulf. That’s five times the amount spilled from Exxon Valdez.
I’ve never believed that the Obama administration is much to blame for any important aspect of this fiasco, just as the Bush administration was not very culpable during and after Hurricane Katrina. But the Obama administration appears to be guilty of dishonesty in attempting to reverse the hit it has taken over the spill and its aftermath.
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