WASHINGTON — The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is bad — no one would dispute it. But just how bad?
Some experts have been quick to predict apocalypse, painting grim pictures of 1,000 miles of irreplaceable wetlands and beaches at risk, fisheries damaged for seasons, fragile species wiped out and a region and an industry economically crippled for years.
President Obama has called the spill “a potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.” And some scientists have suggested that the oil might hitch a ride on the loop current in the gulf, bringing havoc to the Atlantic Coast.
Yet the Deepwater Horizon blowout is not unprecedented, nor is it yet among the worst oil accidents in history. And its ultimate impact will depend on a long list of interlinked variables, including the weather, ocean currents, the properties of the oil involved and the success or failure of the frantic efforts to stanch the flow and remediate its effects.
As one expert put it, this is the first inning of a nine-inning game. No one knows the final score.