BP intentionally misled the public and the U.S. government about the extent of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to save their company and avoid criminal liability, said Matthew Simmons, an oil industry insider who has analyzed the industry for the past 40 years. They continue to do so, he said, risking not just the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and economy, but threatening the health of those who will be exposed to the highly toxic oil in the coming months.

"There is no way BP would not know they were misleading everyone," said Simmons. "They would have to be deaf, dumb, and blind and they're not. These are smart guys."

Simmons presented a daunting analysis of the BP blowout, why it happened, how it happened, and how BP knowingly failed to respond appropriately. He gave the talk to 150 attendees at the request of local people, but he has been speaking about the spill and what he says is BP's malfeasance publicly - including on MSNBC and other national outlets - for months. Fortune magazine's headline to its June 9 interview with Simmons read, "The Gulf Coast Oil Spill's Dr. Doom."

At Tuesday night's talk in Camden, Simmons said BP has misled the public and the government into focusing on a smaller spill at the site of the oil riser that viewers can see on television. It looks big on cameras, said Simmons, but the plume of oil is only six feet high. The oil riser is attached to the sunken oil rig, not to the oil well itself, said Simmons. What is coming out of the riser, which is about a mile long, is not coming from the well itself.

"Keep in mind when the well blew, the rig caught fire and the guy at the joystick on the rig moved the rig away from the well so people could jump off," said Simmons. "Then the water boats pushed the rig farther from the well."

Simmons described the real blowout as an open hole gushing 120,000 barrels of toxic crude every day below the surface of the Gulf six or seven miles away from the riser. And BP is ignoring it, he said.

"What you are seeing on television, what BP is saying about relief wells . . . that's a total ruse," said Simmons.

BP spinning the spill and response, says Simmons

That submerged lake of oil has grown larger than the size of Washington state and is approximately 500 feet thick, according to Simmons' estimate.

"It's thick oil, flowing like lava . . . covering a large part of the Gulf of Mexico and taking the oxygen out," said Simmons. When it mixes with the upper layer, the toxicity will be released, and when it comes ashore Simmons predicts it will take a heavy toll in human lives.

Simmons is known as an outspoken iconoclast, but is also respected as an expert petroleum energy man with a deep understanding of the industry. Notably, he is not against drilling for oil, but deepwater drilling should never have been done, he said, until the technology was developed to safely drill at the high pressures that occur in deep water. Blowout preventers are not designed to handle high pressure levels, nor has fire safety technology been developed for deepwater drilling, said Simmons.

"This could have happened to Exxon or any other company," said Simmons. "But any other company would have fessed up right away and called this what it was: a tragedy and a national emergency. The oil could have been sucked up in the beginning. But BP didn't fess up. They lied. And once you start the lie, it's very hard to get out of it."

Simmons predicts that BP will declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy and suggested that the federal government attach BP's assets. Simmons also does not believe the relief well will work to divert the pressure from the original well so it can be plugged with mud and cement.

"It's a sham," he said. "Relief wells only work if there is casing in the hole."