The numbers game: Senator using skewed figures on oil industry’s safety record

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. Photo from Politico

LABB’s Benjamin Leger contributed an opinion piece to The Lens about Sen. Mary Landrieu’s questionable numbers when it comes to the oil industry’s offshore drilling safety record. Read an excerpt below:

Testifying in front of the Senate Energy Committee in May 2010 while the Deepwater Horizon was still gushing oil into the Gulf, Louisiana’s U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu voiced her opposition to the moratorium on deepwater exploratory drilling:

“Since 1971, not a single spill in the Gulf, or the entire federal OCS (outer-continental shelf), caused by a well blowout exceeded 1,000 barrels of oil. We are exceeding 7,000 barrels of oil every day and a half with this current uncontrolled flow. The record will show from 1947 to 2009, 175,813 barrels have been spilled out of 16.5 billion barrels produced. That is one one-thousandth percent of the total production. I think it is important to keep that in perspective.”

Landrieu, a centrist Democrat, repeated variations on that statement in Senate testimony, public statements, guest editorials and most recently at the Gulf Leadership Forum in May. It’s Landrieu’s way of driving home her contention that the oil industry is safe, and the BP spill an exception — “a stain on (the oil industry’s) otherwise impressive safety record,” as she put it in an opinion piece for Politico, the online news site, in April of this year.

The problem is that her low numbers (in particular, the claim that only 175,813 barrels of oil were spilled from 1947 to 2009) don’t add up – unless you are the American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade association.

Read the rest here.

The story explains that federal data on offshore oil spills and accidents is often incomplete and inconsistent. But if you’re interested in diving into the available federal data (unlike Landrieu, we tend to be skeptical of the oil industry’s own data), here are a few links worth checking out:

BOEMRE: Spill Statistics and Summaries 1964-2011

BOEMRE: Incident Statistics and Summaries 1965-2011

BOEMRE: Accidents Associated with Oil and Gas Operations 1956-1990 (pdf)

BOEMRE: Annual Oil and Gas Production

Instances where Landrieu cited her questionable figures:
– A Politico piece she wrote back in April: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53196_Page2.html

– Youtube video from the Gulf Leadership Forum (Landrieu comes in at the 30-second mark): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugqjpquJVz4
– A press release from Landrieu’s office about Ken Salazar’s testimony in March: http://landrieu.senate.gov/mediacenter/pressreleases/03-03-2011-1.cfm

– Landrieu’s Senate testimony in May 2010: http://landrieu.senate.gov/mediacenter/pressreleases/05-11-2010-3.cfm

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