VENICE, Louisiana - As military officials consider joining the battle against the massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration said Thursday that the cost of the cleanup will fall on BP, the company in charge of the rig that exploded.
White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said President Barack Obama has directed his administration to confront the oil spill aggressively. The military is working to determine how its array of aircraft, ships and equipment might be able to assist the cleanup operation.
"We'll take help from anyone," Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP's exploration and production unit, said on NBC's TODAY show.
"We're not interested in where the idea comes from, what we're interested in is how do we stop this flow and how do we stop it now?" Suttles said.
But time may be running out: Oil from the spill had crept to within 12 miles of the coast, and it could reach the shore as early as Friday.MSNBC
Here is some great information on the science and history of oil spills and how this one is effecting wildlife.
Q: How do oil spills impact wildlife?
Oil slicks, like the one currently floating in the Gulf, affect wildlife by coating their bodies in the water-repelling gunk. Since it floats, all sorts of marine animals, even birds, can take a hit. And fish sometimes mistake the floating slick for food and so are attracted to it, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
When birds' feathers get coated with oil, they lose their ability to trap air and repel water, meaning the animals can't maintain body heat. The result: hypothermia. Marine animals, such as sea otters, which depend on their clean fur coats to stay warm, can also become hypothermic, according to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.
Currently, the oil rig is currently well offshore, though experts have said any turn in winds and currents could send oil toward coastal wetlands where plenty of animals live. In addition, a pod of sperm whales is known to feed in the area of the oil well where the Deepwater Horizon sank, according to news reports.
Q: What percentage of U.S. oil comes from offshore rigs?
According to the Minerals Management Service, offshore drilling in U.S. territorial waters accounted for 30.2 percent of U.S. oil production in 2009 (379 million barrels of oil), and 11.4 percent of U.S. natural gas production (1.6 trillion cubic feet or about 12 trillion gallons).
Q: What is crude oil?
Most of the oil products in the United States are made out of crude oil – the rough, unprocessed form of oil. Gasoline, heating oil, petroleum and diesel fuel are all made from crude oil. Depending on the stage of processing, any one of these oils can get spilled into the environment. If the spill happens during the extraction process, crude oil is leaked. However, if the spill occurs after the crude oil has been refined, diesel fuel or petroleum is leaked. If the spill happens when a tanker's fuel supply is punctured, gasoline – another refined crude oil product - would seep into the environment.
Q: What type of oil spill causes the most harm?
Gasoline and diesel fuel molecules are smaller than crude oil molecules. Because of this, gasoline and diesel spills evaporate more quickly. However, these oils are highly toxic to living things, and can kill organisms that breathe in their fumes or absorb these oils through their skin.
Crude oil and other so-called heavy oils are dangerous in a different way. Although they are less toxic, they are thick and gluey and can smother living creatures. By covering the feathers of birds or the fur of marine mammals, these oils prevent the animals from maintaining their normal body temperatures, leading to death from hypothermia. And these oils don't evaporate, so they can remain in the environment for much longer.