Claim: BP oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to natural resources, scientists find

Ridiculous. The real number is much closer to, if not zero. Reminds me of the first environmental project I ever worked on.

When I started working on environmental issues in November 1990, my first project was a natural resources damage assessment. Car companies were concerned that the Department of Interior was going to sock them with a huge bill because car emissions contributed to haze. The “damage” to the “natural resource” was the reduced blueness of the sky.

The bill for haze was going to be based on an economic methodology called contingent valuation — which involved surveying a randomly-selected population with the question, how much would you pay to have crystal clear blue sky? No one would actually have to pay anything. The survey was just hypothetical in nature. Of course, since no one would actually have to cough up the cash, the responses are naturally inflated. As explained in Scare Pollution, the EPA uses this same bogus methodology to determine that each premature death avoided is worth $9 million.

So it was not surprising to find this study’s claim to be based on the ever-bogus contingent valuation:

To estimate Gulf Coast resource values, researchers created a scenario in which people were told that they could have a role in mitigating future damages by effectively paying for a prevention program.

Final analysis showed that the average household was willing to pay $153 for a prevention program. This rate was then multiplied by the number of households sampled to get the final valuation of $17.2 billion.

I dare you to try collecting $153 from each Gulf Coast household. That’s how real the damage assessment is.

The media release is below.

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BP oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to natural resources, scientists find
The six-year study is the first-ever financial evaluation of spill’s impact

VIRGINIA TECH

The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to the natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico, a team of scientists recently found after a six-year study of the impact of the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

This is the first comprehensive appraisal of the financial value of the natural resources damaged by the 134-million-gallon spill.

“This is proof that our natural resources have an immense monetary value to citizens of the United States who visit the Gulf and to those who simply care that this valuable resource is not damaged,” said Kevin Boyle, a professor of agricultural and applied economics in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Science and one of the authors on the paper.

Findings from the study are published in the issue of Science released Friday, April 21.

The scientists developed a survey to put a dollar value on the natural resources damaged by the BP Deepwater spill by determining household willingness to pay for measures that would prevent similar damages should a spill of the same magnitude happen in the future. Survey information included descriptions of damaged beaches, marshes, animals, fish, and coral.

On top of estimating the impact of the spill, the $17.2 billion represents the benefits to the public to protect against damages that could result from a future oil spill in the Gulf of a similar magnitude.

In May 2010, one month after the spill, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissioned a group of 18 researchers to put a dollar value on the natural resources damaged by the BP Deepwater spill.

To estimate Gulf Coast resource values, researchers created a scenario in which people were told that they could have a role in mitigating future damages by effectively paying for a prevention program.

Final analysis showed that the average household was willing to pay $153 for a prevention program. This rate was then multiplied by the number of households sampled to get the final valuation of $17.2 billion.

“The results were eye-opening in that we could tell how much people really value marine resources and ecosystems,” said Boyle. “And even more meaningful because we did additional analysis that proved the legitimacy of oft-criticized values for environmental resources.”

The project team administered surveys to a large random sample of American adults nation-wide after three years of survey development. The first round of surveys was administered face-to-face with trained interviewers while the remaining surveys were completed via mail.

Survey participants were informed of pre- and post-spill conditions in the Gulf of Mexico and what caused the oil spill. They were then told about a prevention program, which can be viewed as 100 percent effective insurance against future spill damages, and that another spill would occur in the next 15 years. With this information, participants were asked to vote for or against the program, which would impose a one-time tax on their household.

“Our estimate can guide policy makers and the oil industry in determining not only how much should be spent on restoration efforts for the Deepwater spill, but also how much should be invested to protect against damages that could result from future oil spills,” said Boyle. “People value our natural resources, so it’s worth taking major actions to prevent future catastrophes and correct past mistakes.”

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10 thoughts on “Claim: BP oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to natural resources, scientists find”

  1. In order to protect their reputations and funding these pseudo scientists will say and/or do whatever they need to in order to keep people afraid; convince everyone that like inca priests, only they can protect humanity from disaster.

  2. Happening in Australia today. Claims of massive damage to Great Barrier Reef are keeping the tourists away.

  3. The only problem, it was BP that was forced to make the payoff to those that “lost business” when it was greedy politicians and the lying media that caused the problem. As I said earlier, I personally, verified during the panic that there wasn’t a single drop of oil on 100s on miles of pristine white sand beaches. The problem, there were no people on those beaches either and it was the height of the season. It was the lying, sky is falling, media that kept them away,

  4. Someone who commented above doesn’t realize that Gaia herself is leaking oil constantly into Gulf from the seabed. Leaking more oil simply created an all you can eat buffet for the lifeforms that feed off the oil.

    Oh, and for proof. How many millions of barrels of oil were spilled in coastal waters during WW2 as a result of submarine and air attacks? Where did it all go? Surely there are ecological disasters worldwide still resulting from all those spills? I mean, that’s one of the means in which the Japanese succumbed — they could no longer transport oil from the Dutch East Indies to their industrial centers because the US Navy kept sinking all of those tankers. And off the coasts of France and England…the horror! Those must be ruined beaches on the South of France!

    The BP “settlement” was a payoff to the businesses who “lost business” and not a result of ecological disasters of a purely natural substance. What about Gulf pollution due to human urine from kids playing in the surf.

  5. We know from the Exxon Valdez oil spill that the oil cleaned up much faster than anticipated and the long term effect of the environment was almost nil. It seems those pesky bacteria love hydrocarbons. That we don’t teach our children in school what really happens after an accident is just another indication that we in the West have almost reached the point of no return when it comes to common sence.

  6. Warren … the Gulf Ecosystem has been eating oil for a million years … it wasn’t damaged, it was fed 🙂

  7. There’s no doubt the claim is bogus. I took a trip though the gulf coast near the Summer of 2010 when all the panic about the spill destroying habitats was all over the news. We drove past more than a 100 miles of pristine white beaches both coming and going, but the people that usually spend their summers on those beaches were missing; not a person was seen for miles and miles.

    I estimated that the volume of oil spilled was equivalent to a coke can full spread through 100 private swimming pools. The media love a disaster story.

    So, bottom-line, it was the “sky is falling” media that caused 99 percent of the damages that resulted from the oil spill. This was another case where the media’s approach to a story caused a much greater problem than the initial issue. They do this all the time and ignorant fools believe every word they print.

  8. So your total guess is ‘close to zero’ without any analysis. It sounds to me that you personally place no value on the gulf ecosystem.
    Unfortunately the businesses that depend on the gulf don’t agree with you, and BPs final bill was $62 billion, of which $20 billion was for the SEC and EPA fines and penalties.

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