You’d think after the paper’s recent whopper on the magnitude of the BP oil spill, folks at the New York Times would be extra careful.
Back in May the paper suggested the BP spill wasn’t nearly as bad as Iraq’s 36 billion gallon spill at the end of the Gulf War. That number was way off; the actual tally was somewhere between 250 and 350 million gallons, as the paper eventually noted (blaming the error on someone else).
On Saturday (6/26/10), Times business columnist Joe Nocera argued against a proposed moratorium on deepwater drilling. One of his main points was that deepwater drilling–except for, you know, that current problem in the Gulf of Mexico–is remarkably clean, and that other drilling methods were worse:
Which also leads to a great irony: importing more oil via tankers will actually create more risk, not less. Between 1964 and the Deepwater Horizon accident, a grand total of 1,800 barrels of oil were lost from rig accidents–an average of 45 barrels a year. That is an astonishing record. Ken Arnold, an expert who consulted with the Interior Department right after the BP spill–and a big critic of the moratorium–told me that much more oil is spilled in tanker accidents annually than from drilling rig accidents.
A mere 45 barrels a year is indeed astonishing. It’s also way, way off the mark, as a Times correction today admits (emphasis added):
The Talking Business column on Saturday, about the effect of a moratorium on deepwater drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, misstated the record of oil spills in the Outer Continental Shelf. From 1964 to 2009, 532,000 barrels of oil were lost as a result of spills, not 1,800 barrels. (The lower figure refers to oil lost as a result of blowouts from 1971 to 2009, not to the overall amount of oil lost in accidents.)
One thousand, five hundred thousand–thepoint’s still valid, right?