The Obama administration is promising to make BP foot the bill for the massive Gulf Coast oil spill, but it may not be as simple as it sounds.
Foreseeing a new outbreak of bailout rage, the president's been adamant BP will be handed the bill. The administration is keeping track of cleanup costs.
But while the law passed after the Exxon Valdez spill makes the oil company liable for cleanup costs, it sets a cap of $75 million for other kinds of damage. The damage to Gulf fishermen, the tourist trade and other industries is likely to go well beyond that.
Some lawmakers have introduced a bill to raise the limit to 10 billion, but that would not apply retroactively.
Meanwhile, the tentacles of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill could reach beyond the coast to just about anyone who drinks coffee, eats shrimp, likes bananas or plans to buy tires.
The slick has forced the shutdown of the gulf's rich fishing grounds and could spread to the busy shipping lanes, tying up the cargo vessels and driving up the price of many commodities.
Though a total shutdown of the shipping lanes is unlikely, there could be long delays if vessels are forced to wait to have their oil-coated hulls power-washed to avoid contaminating the Mississippi.
Some cargo ships might choose to unload somewhere else in the U.S. That could drive up costs.
Scientists say the oil spill could reach the Loop Current in a day. Experts say it's similar to a "conveyor belt," sweeping around the Gulf.
If that happens, it likely will end up in the Florida Keys and continue east into the Gulf Stream. An oceanographer at the University of Miami says the oil could affect Florida's beaches, coral reefs, fisheries and ecosystem within a week.
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