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Congress to probe for real amount of spill at BP oil leak

Left to right: Steven Newman, president and chief executive of Transocean, Lamar McKay, president and chairman of BP America, Tim Probert, president of global business lines and chief health, safety and environmental officer for Halliburton and Jack Moore, president and CEO of Cameron testify on Capitol Hill.

Congress wants to determine how much oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico from the accident at the BP oil rig. Although BP has said 5,000 barrels a day were spilling from the well, new reports suggest the figure is much higher. One researcher at Purdue University arrived at 70,000 barrels a day, or between 56,000 to 84,000 barrels if you take in a 20 percent margin of error. But BP CEO Tony Hayward went as far to suggest the oil leak was "relatively tiny" in an interview with a British newspaper, a comment which has put Hayward under sharp American criticism according to Marketplace's Stephen Beard.

Oil anaylst Nick McGregor says Hayward's comments could be very damaging for BP. "This is now getting to the stage where it reflects on BP's future," he said. "It's no longer about this spill, its about how they are perceived in their largest market, the U.S."

Besides perception, the oil leak is costing BP about $33 million per day, about five times what it was earlier in the crisis, to a total of $450 million so far. Press reports say the legal bill will be much bigger has BP has admitted some culpability.

The price of oil was down below $74 a barrel in early trading.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.
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