The BP Deepwater Horizon oil gusher is a huge problem -- yet it's only a fraction of the real oil pollution in the world's oceans. Compare these two factoids:Since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded April 20, the Macondo oil well has bled 21 million to 45 million gallons of oil, according to official estimates, eclipsing the Exxon Valdez disaster, which spilled 11 million gallons. (SFGate/SF Chronicle.)
Nearly 85 percent of the 29 million gallons of petroleum that enter North American ocean waters each year as a result of human activities comes from land-based runoff, polluted rivers, airplanes, and small boats and jet skis, while less than 8 percent comes from tanker or pipeline spills. (Ocean Studies Board and Marine Board of the National Academy of Sciences, via Oceanworld.tamu.edu.)
So by itself, the Deepwater Horizon disaster has at least doubled the amount of oil that will enter American ocean waters this year. But if this disaster hadn't happened, a roughly equivalent amount of oil -- 29 million gallons -- would STILL enter America's oceans from "normal" sources. And that's just U.S. oceans; many other countries have less stringent controls than we do, and pollute tremendously more.
Deepwater Horizon is an environmental catastrophe. But it's just a blip compared to the amount of oil that enters the world's oceans every single year with no media coverage or public concern at all.