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How Much Will the Oil Spill Cost?

It’s a question the Democratic Policy Committee considers in a flash report called “The Economic Statistics of the BP Oil Spill,” which also underscores the answer: Nobody knows. The DPC comes up with a good roundup of the basic immediate liabilities — the value of various industries to various places along the afflicted, oil-coated coast, below. But this list does not capture the trickle-down, the bigger picture. The unemployment rate in these communities will rise. Businesses that have nothing to do with tourism or fishing will falter, due to reduced consumption along that coast resulting from job losses. The economic damage, like the incalculable environmental damage, could go on for years if not decades.

It reinforces the importance of raising (or getting rid of) the liability cap. Even if the BP disaster knocks only 10 percent off tourism and fishing in just Louisiana and Mississippi, the total damage will total well into the billions — and the effect will be much worse than that. Exxon Valdez — a much smaller spill — ended up costing $7 billion.

Here’s the DPC roundup:

Tourism — Gulf Coast

  • The value of the Gulf Coast’s tourism industry: $20 billion

Tourism — Alabama

  • The amount of money spent by tourists on Alabama’s beaches in 2008: $2.3 Billion
  • The number of workers supported by tourists on Alabama’s beaches in 2008: 41,000
  • Percentage of cancellations already being recorded on Dauphin Island where the first tar balls came ashore: 50 Percent

Commercial Fishing — Louisiana

  • The value of the commercial seafood industry in Louisiana: $2.4 Billion
  • The percentage amount of seafood that Louisiana catches in the continental U.S.: 40 Percent

Commercial Fishing — Gulf Coast

  • The size of the area in the Gulf of Mexico currently closed to fishing: 46,000 square miles
  • The value of the commercial seafood harvest that was to begin on May 15th: $21 Billion
  • The percentage amount of total U.S. seafood production coming from the Gulf Coast: 20 Percent

Tourism — Florida

  • The value of Florida’s tourism industry: $60 Billion
  • The percentage reductions in hotel occupancy rates between Pensacola and Panama City: 30 Percent
  • The estimated percentage reductions in hotel occupancy rates during Memorial Day along the Florida panhandle: 70 Percent

Tourism — Louisiana

  • The amount of money domestic travelers spent in Louisiana in 2008: $9.3 Billion
  • The amount of tax revenue for generated by domestic travel in Louisiana for federal, state, and local governments in 2008: $1.1 Billion
  • Number of Louisiana’s 64 parishes that received over $100 million in travel expenditures in 2008: 15

Recreational Fishing — Louisiana

  • The value of the recreational fishing industry in Louisiana: $1 Billion

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