Over at 1115.org, Sarabeth Guthberg's been doing some seriously amazing work chronicling BP's ever-shifting spin on the amount of oil that's been gushing into the Gulf Of Mexico. Absolutely essential background can be obtained here, and here. Today, she returns to that beat and offers up an example of corporate flackery that will simply redefine chutzpah for an age in which our coastlines teem with poison and death.
The short of it is this: BP last week managed to get a tube attached to the rupture, through which oil was a-gush. The oil giant told reporters that they were managing to capture 5,000 barrels a day through that siphon. Of course, if you recall, BP had previously insisted that the total rate of the oil leak was 5,000 barrels a day. So, post-siphon, how to account for the fact that oil was still visibly escaping from a hole in the sea?
Allow me to pass the mic to Sarabeth:
To BP's credit, they did realize at some point that if a) they were going to claim they were collecting 5,000 barrels a day through the siphon tube, and b) huge amounts of oil could be clearly seen still spilling into the Gulf in the live video feed, then c) they couldn't continue to pretend that the size of the spill was only 5,000 barrels a day.
So they issued a clarification, which is surely destined to become a PR classic:
BP had stuck by its first estimate that some 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, a day of oil was leaking from the well - despite claims from several experts the real figure was at least 10 times higher.
But BP spokesman Mark Proegler told news agency AFP on Thursday: "Now that we are collecting 5,000 barrels a day, it might be a little more than that."
Just: wow. Let that marinate, won't you? Not for too long, of course, because a) it's probably covered in crude oil and toxic chemical dispersant! Also, because since then, BP has revised its estimates of siphon capture down, telling shareholders it was managing to siphon off 3,000 barrels a day, and, to reporters, 2,010 barrels a day. "Which means they can go back to pretending that the spill rate is only 5,000 barrels a day after all," reminds Guthberg.