New York (CNNMoney.com) - The numbers being batted around when it comes to how much the oil spill will ultimately cost BP and the local Gulf of Mexico economies are huge. $3 billion. $14 billion. One politician put it at over $100 billion.
The range is so big because two important questions remain unanswered: When will the leak be sealed, and will most of the oil wash ashore? Until those are answered no one will know the pricetag of the damages for sure.
But there have been studies done looking at what's broadly at stake, and the number is quite large indeed.
The four biggest industries in the Gulf of Mexico are oil, tourism, fishing and shipping, and they account for some $234 billion in economic activity each year, according to a 2007 study done by regional scholars and published by Texas A&M University Press.