Measuring the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

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The Superdome in New Orleans is the largest fixed-dome structure in the world -- and so much oil will have gushed from the leak beneath the Gulf of Mexico that only that enormous structure would be able to contain it.

According to current estimates, between 20 million and 40 million gallons of oil have already spewed from a blown-out well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico -- and as much as 1 million gallons are still gushing out each and every day.

BP has been struggling to cap the leak, but may not be able to do so until a relief well is drilled, sometime in August. How much oil will have been spilled into the Gulf by that time?

For arguments sake, let's say 30 million total gallons have spilled to date, and some 750,000 gallons are flowing out per day. By August 15, some 86 million gallons of oil will have spilled in the Gulf, and by August 31, that figure will soar to 98 million gallons of oil.

86 million gallons would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool 136 times over. And 86 million one gallon milk jugs put side by side would stretch more than 8,300 miles -- a little more than the distance from New York to Hong Kong or about the distance from New York to Rome and back.

The Superdome, the football stadium where the New Orleans Saints play, is the largest fixed-domed structure in the world: It's located on 52 acres of land and has an interior space of 3.5 million cubic meters.

Those 86 million gallons would fill 325,000 cubic meters, or about 9 percent of the Superdome. By the end of the month, it will fill 371,000 cubic meters, closer to 11 percent.

One barrel of oil (that's 42 gallons of oil) refined will produced 19-20 gallons of motor gasoline, meaning those 86 million gallons would have created about 41 million gallons of gas.

The best-selling American auto at present is the Ford F150, which has a gas tank that holds 26 gallons of gas. So the 86 million raw gallons of oil that could be polluting the Gulf of Mexico by August 15 would have filled 1.6 million Ford gas tanks. Or a generic, 20-gallon tank about 2 million times.

Assuming an average consumption of 25 miles per gallon, that's well over a billion miles of highway U.S. cars would have travelled. And with gasoline averaging $2.73 in the U.S., that's $112 million dollars at retail gas pumps.

What else could that money buy? To put it in perspective, a new Learjet 60 -- a popular business jet manufactured by Bombardier -- retails for around $13 million. In other words, assuming BP plugs the leak beneath the Gulf of Mexico, it will have wasted 8.6 Learjets worth of gasoline.