"No additional drilling has been authorized and none will, until we find out what happened here and whether there was something unique and preventable here," Axelrod told ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
If NOAA's estimate is right, the Deepwater Horizon wreck will take approximately 55 days to leak as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, which released a total of 11 million gallons, according to Nancy Kinner, the co-director of the Coastal Response Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Already, at least two dozen lawsuits have been filed in the aftermath of the accident -- many of them naming Halliburton, Inc., the giant oil-services company that was helping pour cement around the pipe BP was drilling when the rig exploded.
The price of oil on commodities markets briefly edged over $86 a barrel today before settling a bit lower. Analysts said thus far prices were not greatly affected by the Deepwater Horizon accident because shipping and delivery of oil continue. But that's likely to change.
"Even if you're not along the Gulf Coast, eventually prices will creep up," said Kevin Kerr, an oil analyst at Kerr Trading International in Connecticut. "Certainly the states that have the highest gas taxes will see the biggest increase. California, New Jersey, Chicago, these states will suffer the most."
The response team has been using chemical dispersants and flotation booms to break the oil up and corral it. On Wednesday it experimented with a controlled burn of part of the slick. But the Coast Guard said because of rough weather including high winds the skimming and controlled fires would be impossible today. It reported high winds and seas of six to seven feet.
BP says it is pressing ahead with a plan to collect the leaking oil with a dome placed over the well. It is also working to drill a relief well to stop the flow, though it concedes that could take months.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said she was not impressed: "It is clear that after several unsuccessful attempts to secure the source of the leak, it is time for BP to supplement their current mobilization, as the slick of oil moves toward shore," she said this afternoon at a briefing in Louisiana. She and other officials said BP needs to talk to competing oil companies to come up with new ideas.
Today Florida's Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency for four counties on the Florida panhandle.
Louisiana's Gov. Jindal had declared a state of emergency yesterday, asking for federal help to pay for use of National Guard troops. Late today the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Robert Gates had agreed to pick up the tab.
The White House said 1,900 people were at work to protect the shoreline, and 217,000 feet of flotation booms have been deployed as of today to corral the floating oil. It said 75 response vessels were on site, including skimmers, tugs, and barges.
The liberal group MoveOn.org used the accident to call on President Obama to back off his call for new offshore drilling.
"Today, people all across the Gulf Coast can tell you why it's a terrible idea," the group's organizers said in an e-mail to members. "Instead of drill, baby, drill they're looking at spill, baby, spill."
Conservation groups such as the Sierra Club, Oceana and the Alaska Wilderness League joined in urging a halt to drilling.