For one, BP's worst-case spill scenario as described to regulators by far underestimated the true impact of a blowout at 5,000 feet. The British oil giant didn't have enough containment booms or dispersants on hand to collar the spill. Testimony from Rep. Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts on Wednesday also indicated that BP dramatically, and knowingly, underestimated the flow of oil by several factors. As much as 19,000 barrels a day flowed out of the well, not BP's 5,000-barrel estimate, according to new government figures. That makes the total size of spill up to 20 million gallons, nearly twice the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.
Ecologically, the full effect of the spill on wildlife and habitats has not yet been felt, even as oil now covers nearly 100 miles of Louisiana marshland. Questions about how much of the light crude oil is suspended underwater are unanswered, even as the spill begins to threaten Florida's tourist beaches.
Politically, the Obama administration has ordered a full-court press for reform of the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, which oversees outer continental shelf drilling, all of which is likely to lead to new restrictions and safety requirements for oil companies. Myriad congressional hearings are under way.