Efforts to contain the spill are floundering, and efforts to understand it have just begun.

Obama tours the Panhandle today, but is it just a show? Will he be able to get BP to cough up $20 billion to help pay for damages? Will the spill help him push an energy bill through Congress?

Have the booms failed?
Oil continues to penetrate further inland along the beaches of the Western Panhandle.

Oil sheens were spotted as far inshore as the Bob Sikes Bridge on Santa Rosa Sound. Scattered clusters of tar balls, red weathered crude and mousse were observed across much of Pensacola Bay as well as inside Little Sabine Bay. Oil seeped into the grass beds in and around Lafitte Cove, where Pensacola Beach’s Peg Leg Pete’s restaurant is located.

Large plumes of red weathered oil were spotted about two miles south of the coast Monday, and reconnaissance missions reported oil products ranging from tar balls to massive sheens just outside Pensacola Pass.

The efforts have been described as “chaotic.”

Two fleets of fishing boats were supposed to be laying out boom, the long floating barriers to corral oil and protect the fragile marshes of Barataria Bay.But the boats were gathered on the inland side of the bay — the wrong side — anchored idly as the oil oozed in from the Gulf of Mexico. BP officials said they had no way of contacting the workers on the boats, Mr. Bonano recalled.

“You’re watching the oil come in,” Mr. Bonano said, “and they can’t even move.”

As oil comes inland, entering marshes and rivers, it becomes much harder to clean.

USF researchers on the case
University of South Florida scientists helped confirm the existence of giant underwater oil plumes in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now they’re working to determine definitively whether the plumes come from Deepwater Horizon.

The findings, produced by a team of scientists aboard the research vessel Pelican, were based on faulty methods, claimed experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

That’s when the University of South Florida entered the fray.

Armed with high-tech monitoring equipment, a 115-foot research boat and their own team of experts, USF’s College of Marine Science suddenly found itself thrust into the middle of a national environmental crisis.

Other researchers from the university, which has gotten national attention for investigating the threat to our native shores, have confirmed that the Keys remain free of oil.

What about onshore drilling? Offshore disaster brings renewed attention to safety concerns.

Sickening spill: Tracking oil-related illness.

Know your oil: A helpful graphic.

The Blame Game: Florida Edition: Wish I saw this when it first came out.

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