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BP oil spill: an accounting of its impacts after 39 days

Corporate behavior, drilling methods, regulators’ roles, and the search for oil alternatives all are reexamined in the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Workers cleaned a beach of oil residue in Grand Isle, La., on Thursday, more than a month after the BP oil spill began.

Jae C. Hong/AP

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Details about shortcuts ahead of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig – and subsequent obfuscation by oil giant BP – have awakened Americans and their government to the tight relationship between oil explorers and regulators. The disaster has also made more clear the risks of drilling deeper and deeper in the quest for oil.

Already, the spill is changing the nature of deep-water exploration.

“Problems that emerge when you’re 5,000 feet under water, that’s going to be a fact of life moving forward,” says Mark Zupan, an energy expert at the University of Rochester in New York.

As the spill in the Gulf of Mexico has overtaken the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident as the worst oil spill in US history, BP faces the greatest fallout. University of California researcher Robert Bea has put 90 percent of the blame for the disaster on the company.

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