Here's an import from http://openchoke.blogs.com. It offers some informed data on the Transocean Horizon spill. I do not know the author of this.
Transocean Horizon Spill... "Obama's Katrina"?
Panic time, folks. News stories about impending environmental disasters. A couple of senators calling for hearings. The media calling it "Obama's Katrina". Time for that rarest of things, perspective.
1. Chance that a US operated Gulf of Mexico rig sinks and spills? A. 0.025% or 1 in 4000.
2. How much oil will this spill (worst case scenario)? A. 150,000 barrels.
3. How much is it leaking now? A. 5,000 barrels per day, although it sounds so much bigger when you multiply by 42 and put it into gallons.
4. How much natural oil seepage is there in the Gulf of Mexico? A. 5,000 barrels per day, although it is widely distributed and not point sourced.
5. Where will this rank? A. 37th in the world's top 71 man-made oil spills.
6. What happened to the 121,000 barrels spilled by the Mega Borg (the second largest spill in the GOM)? A. They burned it. 1800 barrels recovered, 270 barrels left after burning, so, in essence, via burning and wind and wave action biodegradation, 121,000 barrels turned into a little over 2000 barrels. The Prudhoe Bay incident was magnified because it had little wind or wave action... it was a closed system.
7. How does this compare to, say, wildfires? A. Wildfires fully devastate the areas they cover, and typically take 5-30 years to fully recover from a ground fire and up to 150 years to recover from a crown fire. Full recovery from an oil spill is typically a year or less.
8. OK, but how about the carbon footprint between them? A. In fully protected fire areas (a small amount of total forest), there are typically 10,000 to 30,000 forest fires per year world wide. These consume 16,000,000 hectares per year, and release 1.6 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year (mind you, this is just a small subset of fires, the subset we are most able to fight and protect). This spill will release, at most a little over 52,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. That is, 0.0033% of fully protected fightable wildfires.
9. But, but... the poor birds? A. Fires fully incinerate the animals they touch. Oily animals make fine, heart-rending posters and cover shots for Time.