Before BP, America’s worst offshore oil accident was the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. That was much smaller than BP (11 million gallons against 184 million so far). However, many experts believe the BP spill is likely to cause less damage because the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico will break up the oil much quicker.
The Exxon Valdez spill is reckoned to have killed more than 20 whales and a quarter of a million sea birds. Fishermen in the affected area say that herring were wiped out permanently, destroying their livelihood. So far the BP spill is known to have killed just less than 1,400 birds. But while BP is having to pay $20 billion in compensation, Exxon had to shell out just half a billion.
Here’s another interesting fact. President Obama has appointed Kenneth Feinberg to administer BP's $20 billion BP fund. Mr Feinberg also administered the compensation fund for 9/11, when nearly 3,000 people were killed. That paid out just $7 billion.
America’s, and the world’s, worst oil spill, incidentally, was probably the Lakeview Gusher in California, which released more than 370 million barrels over 18 months in 1910-11, flooding an entire valley.