I think Slate must have put the New York Times up to this story in their paper today, announcing the contrarian viewpoint that, actually, the Gulf Coast is bouncing back nicely.

The immense patches of surface oil that covered thousands of square miles of the gulf after the April 20 oil rig explosion are largely gone, though sightings of tar balls and emulsified oil continue here and there.

Reporters flying over the area Sunday spotted only a few patches of sheen and an occasional streak of thicker oil, and radar images taken since then suggest that these few remaining patches are quickly breaking down in the warm surface waters of the gulf.

John Amos, president of SkyTruth, an environmental advocacy group that sharply criticized the early, low estimates of the size of the BP leak, noted that no oil had gushed from the well for nearly two weeks.

“Oil has a finite life span at the surface,” Mr. Amos said Tuesday, after examining fresh radar images of the slick. “At this point, that oil slick is really starting to dissipate pretty rapidly.”

Yes, it has a finite lifespan at the surface, but this doesn’t mean that the oil – and its toxicity – has completely disappeared. Jed Lewison points out that the oil could have settled on the seafloor or in plumes beneath the surface, something BP has denied for months. Not even NOAA’s Jane Lubchenko would accept the arguments from BP-funded scientists that the environmental impact would be minimal.

But so far, the biggest impact of the gusher in the Gulf, for BP, comes in the form of their huge tax rebate:

Oil giant BP PLC will reduce its contribution to U.S. coffers by roughly $10 billion due to a tax credit the company is claiming it incurred from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BP said Tuesday that it is incurring a charge of $32.2 billion from the Gulf response, and as such, it is claiming a $9.9 billion taxation credit.

Asked in a conference call Tuesday about whether the company has discussed the tax credit with President Barack Obama’s administration, outgoing BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward said, “We have followed the IRS regulations as they’re currently written.”

They haven’t followed all criminal statutes as written, which is why the Justice Department is focusing on them in potential indictments, particularly over their cozy relationship with regulators. But regardless of the legality of this tax break, it’s seriously galling. Other companies, including even Goldman Sachs, have not taken deductions for penalties incurred from the federal government. BP thinks they can get away with almost $10 billion in savings.

Much like BP’s oil has “disappeared” from the Gulf, but remains below the surface, so to with their tax liability. Their accountants made it disappear, but hopefully the IRS can resurrect it.