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BP Turns Down Offers to Better Measure Gulf Disaster

Scientists believe there is much more oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico than the government estimates. But BP says that there is no way to measure the leak accurately, and that efforts to do so are "not relevant."

Even as BP has succeeded in siphoning off some of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the company has continued to resist calls for more accurate measurements of the oil flow, according to The New York Times.

The government continues to use the 5,000-barrels-a-day estimate, which comes from  satellite images of the ocean's surface -- a method that is not recommended for measuring spills as large as this one.

The current method of measuring the disaster seems particularly ill-suited to the task, now that scientists have found enormous plumes of dispersed oil forming in the deep waters of the gulf -- and not on the surface of the water. (As we reported, the EPA approved the use of dispersants to break up the crude, making oil droplets linger longer in the water without floating to the surface.)

As we noted last week, scientists have stood ready with techniques to gain better measurements of the gusher, but BP has maintained that there's no way to measure the leak, and has not accepted the scientists' help. From the Times:

"The answer is no to that," a BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said on Saturday. "We're not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It's not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort."

Video footage of the spill has led scientists to estimate its flow somewhere between 25,000 and 80,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the Times. In other words, that's five to 16  times worse than the government's estimate.

We've reached out to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that produced the government's estimate, to ask whether the discovery of deep sea plumes calls into question the accuracy of the current estimate. We will update when we get a response.

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