Gulf oil spill update: What's known now about cause and effects
Amid hearings on the cause of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, government scientists, academics, and those most affected by the Gulf oil spill are at odds over the extent of its effects.
(Page 2 of 2)
To date, BP has paid $11.6 billion in recovery costs, which includes cleanup and is part of the estimated $40 billion total it expects to pay.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
What is the economic toll so far?
The oil spill particularly affected the tourism, seafood, and oil and gas industries of the Gulf Coast.
Revenue at Gulf Coast hotels in Alabama and the Florida panhandle dropped as much as 29 percent from 2009, according to the Santa Rosa Island Authority. But New Orleans expects its best tourist year since hurricane Katrina, and tourism in Florida is up 3.4 percent statewide.
For the seafood industry, only 4 percent of Gulf federal waters remained closed as of Oct. 29 – down from a high of 37 percent. But the spill could cost the seafood industry as much as $172 million from 2011 to 2013, according to a study by Greater New Orleans Inc., an economic development agency. The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board reports that demand outside the region remains low.
The oil and gas industry and state leaders, meanwhile, have been at odds with the federal government regarding the effects of the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. A US Commerce Department survey found that 2,000 people directly involved in the offshore industry lost their jobs. By contrast, a study by Louisiana State University economist Joseph Mason said 8,000 people lost their jobs, and more would follow.
Industry officials also note that though the moratorium was lifted early, the US has not yet issued any new deepwater permits, raising fears of long delays. Thirty-three deepwater drilling projects in the Gulf were shut down by the moratorium. Three have since relocated to other countries.
What about water quality and wildlife?
Some 5 million barrels (205 million gallons) of oil entered the Gulf. Where it all is now is a question that continues to be fiercely debated. Federal officials first argued that the "vast majority" of oil is gone, but then had to backtrack. Different teams of independent scientists have reported that as much as 80 percent of the oil remains.
Some is on the surface, with local fishermen insisting that huge patches of weathered oil were still floating off the coast Oct. 23. Government scientists said tests showed it was an algae bloom.
Similarly, independent scientists have said that oil remains on the ocean floor and suspended in the water column in plumes. Government scientists say they have found only trace amounts of undersea oil.
Nearly 7,000 animals have been found dead, which scientists say is probably a small portion of affected wildlife.