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'Think twice, act once,' says new BP cap

Oil coats plants and oil absorbent material in Port Fourchon, La.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: There is, believe it or not, a sign on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico today that reads "Think twice, act once." It's on a sticker that's attached to the brand new cap down on the oil well down there. BP engineers installed that tighter fitting cap last night. They're set to run some tests today to see if, maybe, this time, they really can seal the well completely. Of course, whether or not it'll work is anybody's guess. But this is the moment we've all been waiting for, right? Stopping the oil?

Marketplace's Krissy Clark reports there is one more thing: What the heck comes next?


Krissy Clark: The BP oil spill turned 12 weeks old today. If it were a baby, it would be just about old enough to start laughing.

No one's laughing down on the Gulf these days, but a few industry analysts who follow the company may be breathing a sigh of relief as BP tests a new, tighter cap on the well.

Barbara Shook: It's like, "Oh, finally something went right."

Analyst Barbara Shook is with the Energy Intelligence Group. She says plugging the well might help BP's plummeting stock price. But, from lawsuits, to paying out damages, to the question of whether BP will ever be allowed to develop oil in the Gulf again, the company's problems won't be over for a long time.

Shook: No, nothing will ever be OK at BP again. It took 'em this long to do something that actually doesn't seem like a Rube Goldberg scheme.

Of course, the bigger question is what happens to the people, the economy and the environment of the Gulf. Robert Stavins, an environmental economist at Harvard, says the damage has already been done: Fish are dying, tourist are making detours, people are losing jobs. And those are just the short-term effects. But the long-term effects of spills gone-by -- like the Exxon Valdez -- are still being studied, according to Stavins.

Robert Stavins: It is going to be several years before successive generations of various species and the impacts on them are going to be observed.

That won't stop lawsuits and many more claims from being filed sooner. In fact, that's one economic impact we can count on, a whole cottage industry of consultants and lawyers trying to quantify the damage.

I'm Krissy Clark for Marketplace.

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