We've all been watching the enormous oil disaster that unfolding off of Louisiana. This thing has a huge variety of repercussions and implications, so here is a list of the things it will affect. It is by no means inclusive. US Energy Policy. A Big Deal was made earlier in Obama's first term over the 20-year moratorium ending over new US offshore oil drilling. Now everyone from thehttp://www.fresnobee.com/2010/05/03/1919739/schwarzenegger-pulls-plug-on-offshore.html] Governator in California [/url]to Gulf oil proponents like Mary Landrieu stumbling over each other trying to get to a mic and denounce the actions of the Big Oil that line their pockets. Environmental Disaster, part I. If and when the oil reaches land in large quantities it will kill the vegetation that holds the Gulf Coast barrier islands in place, allowing them to erode, advancing the human-made destruction of the Mississippi Delta started by the Corps of Engineers. This in turn will make New Orleans ever more vulnerable by hurricane-meditated storm surge and another Katrina-like disaster more likely. Letting aside the issue about the birds, turtles and the rest of the flora and fauna ending up dead. Booms and the like to corral the oil work poorly in the windy environment of the Gulf at this time of year, and only by the grace of wind patterns has the full brunt of the Delaware-sized slick not hit the coastline. Environmental Disaster, part II. Use of oil dispersants, which while proprietary are basically detergents, can prevent oil from affecting the coastline. The problem is that the oil doesn't go anywhere but the bottom of the ocean, where it sits for undetermined time periods in a quiescent and biologically inert, undegraded state. Filter feeders inhabit this same environment and bio-accumulate the oil that permeates their habitat. BP has recently bought up a third of the world's supply of dispersants, and is readying to deploy them across the oil spill, with long term consequences to the Gulf of Mexico fishing and shellfish industry. Economic Disaster. The Gulf Coast is supported by four main industries: oil exploration, tourism, fishing and shipping. With political problems due to this disaster making current and future oil exploration difficult to predict, this industry has an imperiled future. Tourism and sport fishing in these usually highly productive waters has basically stopped along the coast, hitting many small towns that rely on outside money for their existence. Fishing is obviously affected, both vertebrate and invertabrate varieties. The long term effect on shrimp and shellfish hinges mostly on the use of dispersants and whether the oil ends up in them, while fish fishing may cease for years as the food chain breaks down due to oil pollutants killing the plankton and the like. Shipping will only be affected if and when the Mississippi delta further deteriorates, making shipping more difficult. All told the oil spill has large scale, long term repercussions into the tens of billions of dollars on the Gulf Coast economy. Legal quagmire. Currently there is a 75 million dollar cap on liability claims that can be made against oil spills. On a multibillion dollar true liability, all as a result of the Exxon Valdez spill. This is being remedied retroactively by the Senate, but it's unclear whether precedent exists to do so, assuming it's even possible to pass over a Senate fillibuster. Then there's the fact that it is unclear who exactly is at fault: BP, the platform operator or Halliburton (who made the plug and valve that may have/did fail. The Exxon Valdez spill was only settled for good in 2008 by the Supreme Court, 20 years after the actual spill. Expect similar results here. Questions: Who do you think is the most to blame for the disaster? Regulation? BP? Halliburton? The carbon-based economy? What do you think will happen to the environment? In general, specifically, etc. What does this mean for energy legislation? Will climate change be easier or harder to pass now? What will happen to offshore drilling? What will the ultimate human cost be of this? What will happen to the shrimping and fishing fleets that ply the gulf?