How Much Is 4.2 Million Gallons of Oil?

Oil continues to surge from the well where the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank, and Coast Guard officials say that the disaster may worsen.

"If we don't secure this well, this could be one of the most significant oil spills in U.S. history," said Rear Adm. Mary E. Landry, commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District.

Officials are warning that as much as 4.2 million gallons of oil could be spilled. Here’s what that equates to:

  • The United States consumed about 137.80 billion gallons of gasoline in 2008 – that's 377,534,247 gallons of gasoline a day. With 4.2 million gallons of gasoline, U.S.'s consumption would be fed for approximately 16 minutes.
  • Each year, the average person in the U.S. drinks 54 gallons of soda and other sugary drinks. With 4.2 million gallons, 77,778 people could drink their fill for the year.
  • An Olympic-sized pool holds about 253,000 gallons (957,700 liters), so 4.2 million gallons of oil could fill about 16 and one half pools.
  • The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, one of the largest aquariums in the world, holds 1.2 million gallons of water. The projected oil spill would be able to fill the aquarium up three and one half times.
  • Since the early 1990s, the U.S. government has required that new toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons of water with every flush. The average American will flush about 140,000 times during their life, according to the EPA, so 4.2 million gallons of water would nearly provide 19 people with all of the flushes they will need in their lifetimes.
  • The White House is repainted each year, and requires 570 gallons of paint to cover its surface. It could be painted every year for the next 7,368 years with 4.2 million gallons of Whisper White paint.
Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.