In fact, experts believe that the amount of oil spilled is much higher. As NPR reports, the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico may be at least 10 times the size of official estimates:
Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, analyzed videotape of the seafloor gusher using a technique called particle image velocimetry.
A computer program simply tracks particles and calculates how fast they are moving. Wereley put the BP video of the gusher into his computer. He made a few simple calculations and came up with an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill: 70,000 barrels a day — much higher than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.
The method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent.
Given that uncertainty, the amount of material spewing from the pipe could range from 56,000 barrels to 84,000 barrels a day. It is important to note that it's not all oil. The short video BP released starts out with a shot of methane, but at the end it seems to be mostly oil.
Eugene Chiang, a professor of astrophysics at the University of California, Berkeley, also got a similar answer, using just pencil and paper.
Without even having a sense of scale from the BP video, he correctly deduced that the diameter of the pipe was about 20 inches. And though his calculation is less precise than Wereley's, it is in the same ballpark.
"I would peg it at around 20,000 to 100,000 barrels per day," he said.
Chiang called the current estimate of 5,000 barrels a day "almost certainly incorrect."
It seems Cupp is lowballing the spill numbers to fit with her column's theory that it would be expensive and counterproductive to clean up that relatively small amount of oil.