Obama says impact of US oil spill is almost like 9/11
Published 15/06/2010 | 05:00
President Barack Obama compared the devastating impact of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to the terrorist attacks on 9/11, yesterday.
Touring the oil-ravaged Gulf coast yesterday, Mr Obama promised to get tough with BP and pledged a radical rethink of America's love affair with oil.
"In the same way that our view of our vulnerabilities and our foreign policy was shaped profoundly by 9/11, I think this disaster is going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come," Mr Obama said.
"One of the biggest leadership challenges for me going forward is going to be to make sure that we draw the right lessons from this disaster."
Mr Obama faces what could be the defining week of both the crisis and his presidency, with a two-day trip to the new states at risk from the slick and a national address from the Oval Office, the first of his presidency.
He is expected to outline a plan legally compelling BP to create a reserve account to compensate businesses and individuals for their losses from the spill. On Wednesday he will meet senior oil company executives in Washington.
Last night he indicated the oil giant is ready to meet his demand for a multibillion-dollar, independently-run damage fund. His spokesman Bill Burton said the president and BP were "working out the particulars," such as the fund amount and how it would be run but said it would amount to "billions of dollars".
BP's board met in London yesterday to discuss deferring its second-quarter dividend and putting the money into a trust until the company's liabilities from the spill are known.
The administration said earlier -- uncertain that BP would voluntarily establish the damage fund -- that Obama was prepared to force BP to act.
The president 's two-day visit to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida precedes his first-ever Oval Office address to the US tonight and his first face-to-face meetings with BP executives tomorrow.
In a statement, BP said its costs for responding to the spill had risen to $1.6bn (€1.3bn) , including new $25m (€20m) grants to Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
The estimate doesnot include future costs for scores of damage lawsuits already filed.
The government's high-range estimates say as much as 8 million litres a day could be billowing from BP's runaway well which will not stop leaking until relief wells are completed in August.
Already potentially more than 380 million litres of crude oil has been expelled into the Gulf, far outstripping one of the worst ecological disasters the 1989 Exxon Valdez.