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Commentary: That frustrating oil spill

The magnitude of the environmental and economic catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico will take 20 years to calculate — and the oil spill has yet to be stopped.

BP has given up trying to plug the gushing well altogether and is attempting to cap the leak, then siphon off most, but not all, of the crude spewing out 5,000 feet below sea level. Then there is nothing more to do but wait until a new well to divert the oil is completed in August.

Meantime, oil was sighted 9.5 miles off Florida's Panhandle near Pensacola on Wednesday. Gov. Charlie Crist's office predicts that the slick will reach land by this weekend. Summer is the Panhandle's high tourist season, so this threat to the region is a triple whammy. It could ruin the Panhandle's fishing industry, damage its wetlands and beaches and put a huge dent in its tourism revenue.

This is sickening, truly sickening. The only good that can come of this spreading disaster is if Americans are so revolted by the sight of oil sullying the Gulf that they finally agree to adopt real energy conservation measures and develop renewable energy sources to reduce our fossil-fuel dependence.

This begins with President Obama. Contrary to his critics, Mr. Obama is doing all any president can in responding to the Gulf oil leak. The U.S. Coast Guard is in charge of BP's efforts to stanch the flow, as it should be. Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, Interior Department and FEMA are also involved. The long dysfunctional drilling regulator, the Minerals Management Service, is being completely overhauled.

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