BP has paid out $9.5 billion to combat the spill, kill the well, and remunerate victims – a figure that BP says could ultimately climb to $32 billion. Though that's not likely to doom a company with an average annual revenue stream of nearly $250 billion, uncertain liabilities could increase the impact on BP's bottom line beyond that figure. Unresolved issues include restrictions on BP's ability to drill and the settlement of thousands of civil lawsuits piling up in courthouses along the Gulf Coast.
More broadly, the accident is likely to alter how business gets done in the Gulf, and not just for BP. The result may be that drilling will be safer, but it will also be more expensive, which could shake out some industry players and affect everything from gasoline prices to US energy independence. Four major drilling rigs, including the Deepwater Ocean Confidence, have left or are leaving the Gulf due to the drilling moratorium.
Tougher regulations and higher insurance rates present a "significant change [that] could affect the rate of oil production from the Gulf many years from now and ultimately the amount of oil that can be recovered from the region -- another long-term blow for the import-dependent U.S. economy," writes James Herron for The Wall Street Journal's "The Source" blog.