The spill now covers “3,500 square miles of ocean surface area and an estimated 200,000 gallons of crude are spewing into the gulf each day”. Fishing in the region has been halted due to safety fears.
Over at the Washington Independent, Annie Lowrey has a look at a report on the spill released by Cumberland Investors on the possible economic consequences of the spill. All emphases mine.
The best case scenario:
Containment chambers are put in place and they catch the outflow from the three ruptures that are currently pouring 200,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf every day. If this works, it will take until June to complete. The chambers are 30-foot-high steel configurations that must be placed on the ocean floor at a depth of one mile. This has never been done before. If early containment is successful, the damages from this accident will be in the tens of billions. The cleanup will take years. The economic impact will be in the five states that have frontal coastline on the Gulf of Mexico: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
And if we’re not that lucky?
This spew stoppage takes longer to reach a full closure; the subsequent cleanup may take a decade. The Gulf becomes a damaged sea for a generation. The oil slick leaks beyond the western Florida coast, enters the Gulfstream and reaches the eastern coast of the United States and beyond. Use your imagination for the rest of the damage. Monetary cost is now measured in the many hundreds of billions of dollars.
Federal deficit spending will certainly rise by tens, and maybe hundreds, of billions as emergency appropriations are directed at larger and larger efforts to clean up this mess. At the same time, federal and state revenues tied to Gulf-region businesses will fall…
We expect that the Federal Reserve will extend the timeframe that we have come to know as the “extended period” in the making of its monetary policy. We do not expect the Fed to raise interest rates at all for the rest of this year, and maybe well into next year. We expect to see the deterioration of the economic statistics for the US to reveal the onset of this oil-slick crisis in May, and the negative impact will intensify during the summer months. A “double-dip” recession probably has been made more likely by this tragedy.
Meanwhile, the Free Exchange blog at The Economist makes the case for raising the indefensibly low cost of oil in America.
[UPDATE: In a bit of irony that climate blog audiences can only fully appreciate, for a change the weather is making the oil problem worse.]