Oil Spill Effects May Be Negligible

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Ken Feinberg is a lawyer and not a scientist . It was surprising to hear him say that the long-term effects of the BP plc (NYSE: BP) oil spill may be very little over time. He told USA Today that “the Gulf is likely to fully recover from the April oil spill.” Feinberg says that he bases his assessment on talks with biologists and other experts on chemical spills and the environment.

Many, if not most of the predictions, about the spill itself and its future impact have been wrong. The amount of crude which leaked each day after the Deepwater Horizon disaster was first put at about 5,000 barrels early on by both BP and the federal authorities. It turned out the figure was actually about ten times that.

Some pessimistic forecasters said the oil slick would eventually swamp the west coast of Florida and then the Keys. It would move, after that, out into the Atlantic and threaten the Eastern Seaboard. Other experts predicted that the beaches around the Gulf would be fouled for years. Still others claimed that the local fishing business would not recover for decades. This was only partly true, if at all.

Feinberg has to spend something less than the $20 billion in money BP has put aside for claims unless he tries to go back to the big oil company for more. It may be that his conclusions about the Gulf spill aftermath will cause him to think that $20 billion is more than enough. The local businesses and people who were hurt by the disaster will almost certainly disagree with him.

Feinberg is not a scientist, so he best keep his opinions about the environment to himself.

Douglas A. McIntyre