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The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming addressed our nation's energy, economic and national security challenges during the 110th and 111th Congresses.

This is an archived version of the committee's website, where the public, students and the media can continue to access and learn from our work.

Markey to Seek Answers on Oil Spill's Worst-Case Scenario Coming True

Independent Experts Indicate Oil Spill Flow Could Exceed Previous BP Worst-Case by 10,000 Barrels a Day

In response to independent analyses reported in the media indicating a daily flow upwards of 70,000 barrels of oil from the Gulf of Mexico BP spill, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said he would launch a formal inquiry into the matter to determine how extreme the oil spill has become and if additional measures are needed for a worsening of the spill or improvements to the solutions to the continued disaster. At the first Congressional engagement on the matter held by Rep. Markey on Tuesday, May 4th, with BP, Transocean and Halliburton, BP officials responded to a question from Rep. Markey about a worst-case scenario, responding that a maximum estimated flow would be 60,000 barrels a day, with a mid-range estimate of 40,000 barrels a day.

Just yesterday, testimony from the companies before the Energy and Commerce Committee focused on an estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.

"This spill has gone from 1,000 barrels a day to 5,000 barrels a day, and now could potentially be 70,000 barrels a day. I am concerned that an underestimation of the oil spill's flow may be impeding the ability to solve the leak and handle the management of the disaster," said Rep. Markey, who chairs the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment in the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is conducting an investigation into the spill. "If you don't understand the scope of the problem, the capacity to find the answer is severely compromised. Did an increased flow prevent the dome from working? Do we need more robust recovery efforts? These are answers we need, and we needed them yesterday."

Rep. Markey will send a formal letter of inquiry tomorrow to BP--and seek additional verification from federal agencies--asking about the methods used to determine the total volume of the oil emanating from the sunken drilling pipe, called the riser, and what the results of those analyses have been. The investigatory letter will also ask how an increased flow could affect potential solutions to the oil spill, such as the failed containment dome and the proposals to drill directly into the riser or shoot golf balls and shredded tires into the blowout preventor.

The figure of 70,000 barrels a day was reported by National Public Radio, and was done by a professor from Purdue University, utilizing a technique called particle image velocimetry to determine the volume of the flow. NPR reported the method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent, meaning the flow could range between 56,000 barrels a day and 84,000 barrels a day. A separate analysis performed by a Florida State University scientist indicates that the spill could easily be "four or five times" larger than the 5,000 barrel a day estimate, the New York Times reported.

PLEASE NOTE: The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming was created to explore American clean energy solutions that end our reliance on foreign oil and reduce carbon pollution.

The Select Committee was active during the 110th and 111th Congresses. This is an archived version of the website, to ensure that the public has ongoing access to the Select Committee record. This website, including external links, will not be updated after Jan. 3rd, 2010.

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