News of the WeekGulf Oil Spill

A Lot of Oil on the Loose, Not So Much to Be Found

Science  13 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5993, pp. 734-735
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5993.734

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Now that the gusher that spewed oil for 85 days into the Gulf of Mexico has stopped, scientists are wondering where it all went. A federal report released last week should have begun to answer that question. Instead, political spin and media hype transformed the scientists' message even before it was released. According to one CNN reporter, the interagency report led by the Department of the Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that of the 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled, "75% has been cleaned up by Man or Mother Nature." Nothing in the report supports that interpretation. But there are multiple ways to read the report's iconic pie chart while remaining grounded in fact.