Last night, President Obama made his first Oval Office speech. In it, he described the BP oil spill as an assault on “our shores and our citizens” and outlined his “battle plan.” He discussed the immediate cleanup of the spill, the repayment he’ll insist on from BP for harm done, and the future of U.S. energy.
Katie Couric compared Obama’s speech to others issued from the Oval Office.
“The disaster in the Gulf may or may not be President Obama’s Katrina, but, tonight, it will be his Challenger explosion, his Cuban missile crisis, his Sept. 11. Unlike those events, this is a long simmering disaster, getting darker by the day.” [CBS]
Here are some of the major points covered in the speech:
Obama started by discussing BP’s current efforts to stop the leak and assuring the public that the company’s work will soon pay off. Obama wasn’t specific on how the company will finally stop the oil flow, but only said that the company will use “additional equipment and technology.”
“In the coming weeks and days, 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.”
How BP Will Repay Victims
Though he didn’t specify an amount, the president also wants to put aside BP funds (The New York Times reports that Senate Democrats have called for $20 billion) in an account managed by a “third party” to fairly distribute to victims. BP has confirmed a meeting with the president at the White House today, in which this escrow account will be discussed. Said Obama:
“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.”
Relationship Between Companies and Watchdogs
He spoke of earlier efforts to clean up corrupt relationships between big companies, like BP, and the agency meant to monitor them–the Minerals Management Service (MMS) within the Department of the Interior. Obama said his administration began cleaning out the MMS when he took office:
“But it’s now clear that the problem there ran much deeper, and the pace of reform was just too slow. And so Secretary [Ken] Salazar and I are bringing in new leadership at the agency — Michael Bromwich, who was a tough federal prosecutor and Inspector General. And his charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry’s watchdog — not its partner.”
A Green Energy Future?
He also spoke of a need to adopt greener energy sources and described our slow transition to these energy sources compared to China, for example.
“We cannot consign our children to this future. 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.”
Some have criticized Obama for not being more specific; others hope that his speech will incite change after the clean-up.
Still, some polls suggest a national willingness to make economic sacrifices for the sake of kicking the oil addiction. And the first step need not be too expensive. A new study from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that one proposed energy bill, which includes a carbon emission trading scheme, would cost the average American household only about $100 a year. [Reuters]
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Recent posts on the BP oil spill:
80beats: Should We Just Euthanize the Gulf’s Oil-Soaked Birds?
80beats: “Top Cap” Installed on BP Oil Leak; Effectiveness Remains to Be Seen
80beats: This Hurricane Season Looks Rough, And What If One Hits the Oil Spill?
80beats: We Did the Math: BP Oil Spill Is Now Worse Than the Exxon Valdez
80beats: Oil Spill Update: BP to Switch Dispersants; Will Kevin Costner Save Us All?