This article is from the In-Depth Report BP Gulf Oil Spill: 5 Years Later
60-Second Earth

How Bad Is the Oil Spill?

As bad as it is, BP's Gulf oil spill dwindles compared with gushers of the past. David Biello reports

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico worsens literally by the minute, with the addition of an estimated 3.5 barrels of crude. That's more than 200,000 gallons of oil a day adding to a slick that now covers an area roughly the size of Delaware. And some experts estimate the spill could actually be as much as 10 times worse.  

That would make BP's Gulf spill already worse than the infamous 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, which discharged roughly 11 million gallons of oil off Alaska. But it would take two more years of spillage to catch up to another deep-water catastrophe: a blowout in an exploratory well off the coast of Mexico in 1979.  

That spill took more than a year to stop, spewing an estimated 140 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. And that is dwarfed by the willful spill of oil by Iraq's Saddam Hussein, who dumped roughly one billion gallons of oil during the 1991 Gulf War, at least a quarter of it into the Arabian Gulf.  

Regardless, the aftereffects of an oil spill are likely to last for a long time. Twenty years after Exxon Valdez, puddles of crude oil can still be found in Prince William Sound.

—David Biello

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