Putting the oil spill in perspective

According to the Wikipedia, the gulf oil spill is gushing out between 35-60,000 barrels per day, which, at 42 gallons per barrel is between 1.5 and 2.5 million gallons per day. According to AP, when the cap is removed today, the gusher will spew 5 million gallons in 48 hours. Taking 50k gallons per day from the Wikipedia estimate gives about 200 million gallons so far. If you take the capless AP value, you would also get around 200,000,000 gallons so far (but since the well hasn't been capless all this time, the real number should be a bit lower.)

Yesterday, as part of a family reunion in Minneapolis, we went through the northern-most lock on the Mississippi, at St. Anthony Falls. According to the boat tour, the lock releases 9,000,000 gallons of water every time it goes up and down. Which means the amount of oil spilled into the gulf is about the equivalent of 20 St Anthony locks.

Considering the immense size of the Gulf, that really doesn't seem like that much.

Steve: Wikipedia says the area of the slick is at least 2,500 square miles. If it were spread out evenly over that area, 200 million gallons would have a thickness of about 5/1000-ths of an inch.