I'd been meaning to post about this, but hadn't been able to. To sum up my feelings on it, I do think that it's a grave disaster. I'd go so far as to deem it our Chernobyl. I also don't think that anybody really knows how bad the damage will end up being. Initially, BP said that a daily total of, what, 5,000 barrels was being distilled into the Gulf? Now, it turns out that this is probably not true, and it can be as much as 75,000 barrels a day. That could end up doing a lot of damage to our oceans, especially if the Gulf Loop ends up circulating some of that oil to the Atlantic. The worst-case scenario can be, literally, an end-of-the-world type scenario, since our oceans are pivotal to maintaining the proper oxygen level in the atmosphere that we breathe.
Even if it doesn't come to that, the consequences can still be pretty dire, and those are just the ones that I can envision. Just one is the supply of seafood. I read that roughly half of the fish that are used for the world's seafood are found in the Gulf of Mexico. If a lot of fish die, or are unsafe to eat due to toxicity from the oil, common everyday staples like shrimp may just become rare delicacies. Another is the certain backlash to deepwater oil drilling. This is a little more unpredictable. As far as I see it, we are in a "damned if we do, damned if we don't" situation. We can't afford to continue, but can't afford to stop either. More ecological disasters like this are bound to happen as a result of deepwater drilling, but stopping now will only bring our day of reckoning (by this, I mean PO of course) that much closer. To those who think we have all this easily available oil, I ask this: If that is true, why are oil companies building these rigs in remote, hostile environments where oil is so much harder to get, and where presumably, it also takes more energy to access? And where, also, spills like this are harder to contain, due to the water pressure in the Gulf?
Anyway, here is a good article on the effects of a hurricane on the spill. And hurricane season is just around the corner.
Update: This is an image from NASA of the spill:
2nd Update: The National Geographic Channel (NatGeo) is airing a special documentary on the oil spill tonight (Thursday, May 27) at 10 PM ET. Check your local listings for the station.