"Expert says," journalists echo, no one questions
Roughly three-quarters of the oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s ruptured well is still in the environment, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official told a House panel Thursday.
It isn't until the sixth 'graf that the reader learns that the "three-quarters" figure is merely an estimate (as it had to be, of course). And to the reporter's credit, in this same graf he notes that this "appears to be merely an educated guess. "
This give the story an entirely different thrust. But the story's lede suggests there's nothing fishy about the "three-quarters" figure.
I'm not trying to minimize the damage caused by the blowout--which damage now includes the government's foot-dragging or outright refusal to issue drilling permits on shallow leases. But if you read the official's testimony, what he's really saying is, "We can't find as much oil from the blowout as we expected. And we don't know why we can't find it. So since we don't know of any natural process that would have made the spilled oil go away, we'll just claim that 3/4ths of it is still there. Even though we can't find it."
This kind of "expert" testimony, of course, will be used by opponents of oil to claim things are worse than you ever thought possible, and to either push for a permanent ban on offshore drilling in U.S. waters, or to load so many new layers of requirements on those wanting to drill here that drilling off the U.S. becomes prohibitively expensive.
Hmmm...you don't suppose that's their goal, do you?