BIGGEST SPILL IN AMERICAN HISTORY…. The magnitude is just staggering.

A federal team created to produce a more precise estimate of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico has determined that the rate is at least twice what was previously acknowledged and possibly five times as much, officials said on Thursday.

If the team’s estimates are accurate, this spill would be far bigger than the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989 and the worst in United States history.

Using two methods — one based on the amount of oil on the surface and the other based on video of the oil emanating at the source — the group settled on preliminary estimates of 12,000 barrels (504,000 gallons) a day to 19,000 barrels (800,000 gallons) a day, said Dr. Marcia McNutt, director of the United States Geological Survey and the leader of the team.

Also this morning, the White House is “extending the moratorium on permits to drill new deepwater wells for six more months.”

President Obama’s press conference on the crisis is ongoing, and I’ll have more on this later.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.