Nearly sixty days since the explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig that has spewed over a hundred million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama devoted his first Oval Office address to outlining what he called a “battle plan” to tackle the environmental catastrophe created by the BP spill. The address came as government scientists once again sharply increased their estimate of the amount of oil gushing out of BP’s blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico to some 2.5 million gallons a day. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Nearly sixty days since the explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig that’s spewed over a hundred million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama devoted his first Oval Office address to outlining what he calls a “battle plan” to tackle the environmental catastrophe created by the BP spill. Obama acknowledged the challenges posed by the depth and size of the oil leak but began his address with an estimate that BP should be able to capture 90 percent of the spill using new ideas and advice from his administration’s scientific team.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: These efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that’s expected to stop the leak completely.
Already this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it’s not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.
AMY GOODMAN: The President’s comments followed an announcement by a government panel of scientists that it is once again sharply increasing its estimate of the amount of oil gushing out of BP’s blown-out well. Some two-and-a-half million gallons a day could be spewing out of the well, according to the latest estimates from the Flow Rate Technical Group. In his primetime address Tuesday night, Obama accused BP of “recklessness” and swore to make the company pay for the massive damage it’s caused to lives, livelihoods and the environment.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party.
Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region. Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, who’s also a former governor of Mississippi and a son of the Gulf Coast, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists and other Gulf residents. And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.
AMY GOODMAN: Obama did not call for a complete stop to offshore drilling in his address, but he summoned Americans to move away from the reliance on fossil fuels and emphasized the urgency of developing alternative sources of energy.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So one of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations, better safety standards and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling. But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk. After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than two percent of the world’s oil reserves. And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.
For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked, not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.
The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.