The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been an unmitigated disaster for many Americans. Residents of beach towns in Louisiana, Mississipi, Alabama, and Florida may be robbed of their livelihoods, scores of animals have died in the oil-slicked waters, and the damage may last for years to come. Still, not everyone is suffering equally — and some people and businesses have seen their fortunes lifted by the spill. The unlikely beneficiaries on this list may wish their successes to stem from a less damaging source, but they still stand to enjoy the thin silver lining in the dark cloud on the Gulf Coast:

1. Charlie Crist
The Florida governor's leadership in addressing the Gulf oil spill has paid off in the polls, says John McCormack in the Washington Examiner. Support for Crist, who launched an independent Senate bid when rival Marco Rubio beat him out for the Republican nomination, has surged in recent months. Where Rubio was once considered the favorite, polls now show an even race, with each getting about 37 percent of the vote. (Watch Charlie Crist express support for Obama's handling of the oil spill)

2. CNN
The struggling cable network has seen a rebound in ratings since BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank. Hard news like the oil spill is "traditionally CNN's speciality," says Danny Shea at The Huffington Post, and it has "scored major ratings victories over Fox News and MSNBC" in prime time and daytime. Large spill-related events like Larry King's "two-hour star-studded telethon" on June 21 also have lifted its profile.

3. Haley Barbour
Having shown off his crisis management skills during Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi governor again "finds himself in a highly visible role during a Gulf Coast catastrophe," says Mark Leibovich at The New York Times. Barbour's work promoting unspoiled regions of the Gulf to tourists has helped him "shift his image" from a "good old boy lobbyist" to that of an "out-front crisis manager — and possible presidential candidate in 2012"

4. The coal industry
The big winner of the spill, at least in terms of energy policy, is the coal industry, says James Ridgeway at Unsilent Generation. "If the BP spill is Obama’s Three Mile Island," then this president will probably react the same way Jimmy Carter did when faced with a crisis in the nuclear power industry. The answer? "Coal, coal, and more coal." Obama has already "declared himself a fan of coal," and has funded research into clean coal technology (no matter how "questionable" that technology is).

5. Brazil
The White House's decision to put a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling after the spill was good news for Brazil, says Allen Johnson at Agence France-Presse. "Massive deep-water reserves" were recently found off the country's coast, and Brazil could take advantage of the lack of U.S. competition for drilling rigs if their owners leave the Gulf of Mexico. A judge this week overturned Obama's moratorium, but the White House is appealing, and the future of deep-water oil exploration in the Gulf is still uncertain.

6. Lawyers
"The Deepwater Horizon disaster might as well be known as the Trial Lawyers' Full Employment Act," says Robert Bryce at The disaster's ultimate cost "may hit $40 billion," and it involves four companies with "a combined market capitalization of over $160 billion," each with varying degrees of responsibility for the spill. Do the math — this adds up to years of work for the "armada of lawyers" with experience in this sector.

7. Kevin Costner
The movie star has invested $20 million over the years in centrifuge technology to separate spilled oil from seawater. That investment has paid off, as BP has bought 32 centrifuge machines from Costner's company to help clean up the Gulf of Mexico. "This machine was designed... to fight for you," said Costner. "It was designed to give us a fighting chance to fight back the oil." Costner is coming across as a celebrity who really cares about the future of the planet, says Maria Anglin at, but he "stands to make quite a bit" of money, too.


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