ROBERT, La. - With BP finally gaining some control over the amount of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, scientists are increasingly worried that huge plumes of crude already spilled could get caught in a current that would carry the mess all the way to the Florida Keys and beyond, damaging coral reefs and killing wildlife.
Scientists said the oil will move into the so-called loop current soon, if it hasn't already, though they could not say exactly how much there would be. Once it is in the loop, it could take 10 days or longer to reach the Keys.
The loop current is a ribbon of warm water that begins in the Gulf of Mexico and wraps around Florida. Some scientists project the current will draw the crude through the Keys and up Florida's Atlantic coast, where the oil might avoid the beaches of Miami and Fort Lauderdale but could wash up around Palm Beach.
Many scientists expect the oil to get no farther north than Cape Canaveral, midway up the coast, before it is carried out to sea and becomes more and more diluted.
In other developments:
Chris Oynes, who oversees offshore drilling programs at the federal Minerals Management Service, will retire at the end of the month. He has been criticized as too cozy with the oil industry.
The White House will establish a presidential commission to investigate the spill, an administration official said.
BP said it has spent $500 million on the spill so far.