May 6th, 2010
11:50 AM ET

Oil spill costs: What will BP really pay?

Steve Hargreaves
Senior Writer, CNN Money.com

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/money/2010/05/06/news/economy/BP_liability/oil_spill.gi.top.jpg caption="Alabama National Guard members worked this week on a containment barrier to protect the coastline from the leaking oil spill." width=300 height=169]

The Gulf oil spill is going to cost billions to clean up, a tab BP has publicly pledged to pay in full.

But thanks to the unpredictable nature of the oil slick and the legal maze surrounding maritime law, what BP will pay and to whom is very much an open question.

Start with the costs. Estimates to clean the spill and compensate other parties for the economic damage run from $2 billion to $14 billion. One politician even said it could run into the hundreds of billions.

The truth is that no one has any idea yet.

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Filed under: Gulf Oil Spill
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