"We're trying to be absolutely as transparent as we can." ~ Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer, to Meredith Vieira
"It may be down to how you define what a 'plume' is here." ~ Same guy, just moments later
" -- and as the crisis in the Gulf approaches its third month, Roscoe's standing by with a very special guest."
"That's right, Cleo. We're joined this morning by Dr. Oliver T. Slick, who's the head of BP's Public Outreach and Explanation Division. Thanks for joining us, Dr. Slick -- "
"Call me Ollie."
"Thanks for joining us. You've had some pretty hectic weeks recently, haven't you?"
"That's right, Roscoe, but it's nothing BP can't handle. Our people have been working day and night to deal with what's happening out there, and we think we're making real progress."
"That's good to hear -- although I have to tell you, we've also been hearing from a lot of people inside the government and elsewhere who disagree with you. Are you able to tell us just how much oil is still leaking from that broken pipe of yours?"
"Well, Roscoe, you understand it's very difficult to come up with any kind of precise number when you're working at that depth, and -- "
"Then how about an imprecise number? Just a ballpark figure."
"Well -- "
"Your earlier figures, as you know, Dr. Slick, were quite far off the mark -- just a fraction of most people's estimates."
"Well -- "
"In fact, the amount of oil you now say you're collecting every day is more than you ever said was leaking!"
"That's the beauty of technology, Roscoe. Sometimes we're able to perform miracles."
"Or you've been fudging your numbers."
"Roscoe, we gave people the best numbers we had at that time. And we're continuing to do that. In fact, that's always been our philosophy at BP: 'Facts First.'"
"Not at all! 'Facts First, Profits Third.' Maybe even 'Profits Fourth.'"
"I have to -- "
"'Third.' Let's go with 'Third.'"
"I'm almost afraid to ask what 'Second' is."
"'More Facts.' That's really the key to getting on top of this thing, Roscoe: making sure the public is completely up to speed on all aspects of the situation."
"Those underwater oil plumes, for instance?"
"There aren't any underwater oil plumes."
"But that's not what -- many scientists are saying exactly the opposite. They're saying they've found at least a couple of massive oil plumes out there, and that the chemical fingerprints of this particular oil show that it definitely comes from your spill."
"There aren't any underwater oil plumes, Roscoe."
"So -- "
"There may be some oil. And this oil just might be our oil -- I'm not saying it is."
"You're certainly not."
"And this oil may be under the sea -- although technically, we like to think of it as a 'gulf' rather than a 'sea,' because -- "
"Can we cut to the chase here?"
" -- so anyway, what you've got is some oil, of unknown origin and unknown quantity, floating around in some undetermined concentration and undetermined location somewhere under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. That's not a 'plume' in my book."
"But -- "
"Not in my book."
"I should point out that your book is called 'Slick's Dictionary of Slippery Oil Words.'"
"Exactly. And we're all very proud of it."
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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at email@example.com.
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