Obama claimed “there has never been a leak this size at this depth,” but others say the situation is not as catastrophic as the President’s melodramatic diatribe indicates. Robert Nelson with the Miami Herald reports the Coal Oil Point seep field near Santa Barbara, California, leaks 150 to 200 barrels of oil every day with no adverse consequences. He also cited a World War II German U-boat attack on eight tankers in the Gulf of Mexico which spilled more than 18 million gallons. The environment recovered soon afterward, largely on its own.
A worse spill in the Gulf of Mexico occurred in 1979 when a blowout on the Mexican oil rig Ixtoc resulted in a leak that lasted nearly 10 months and dumped roughly 3.3 million barrels of crude into the Gulf. And by far the largest spill in U.S. history is California’s Lakeview gusher, which spewed 378 million gallons of oil on dry land over the course of 18 months from 1910 to 1911. (Apparently, Obama is still unaware of Lakeview, since he claims the BP spill “is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.”) However, in both Ixtoc and Lakeview cases, the environment had largely or completely recovered within a five-year period. Experts predict the same recovery rate in the Gulf.