In a relatively rare Gulf of Mexico oil spill update coming directly from the White House, President Obama said “the new cap is good news” — a reference to the “capping stack” installed earlier this week, which has thus far improved the odds of a total mop-up.

In a statement, the President explained that scientists and external experts who “met through the night and continue this morning to analyse the data from the well integrity test” were seeking to determine whether they could safely shut in the well using the new cap without creating new problems, including further oil leaks in the sea floor.

Mr. Obama noted, “Either we will be able to stop the flow, or we will be able to use it to capture almost all of the oil until the relief well is done. But we’re not going to know for certain which approach makes sense until additional data is in.”

Touching upon the positive aspect of the latest development, the President added that even if a shut-in were not possible, the new cap and the additional equipment being placed in the Gulf would be able to contain up to 80,000 barrels a day “which should allow us to capture nearly all the oil until the well is killed”.

However, Mr. Obama also cautioned that “when the oil stops gushing, everybody feels like we’re done — and we’re not”. He said that the final solution to the problem was going to be the relief wells and getting that completed “but there’s no doubt that we have made progress as a consequence of this new cap fitting on, and that even if it turns out that we can’t keep the containment cap on to completely stop the oil, it’s going to allow us to capture much more oil and we’ll see less oil flowing into the Gulf”.

He added that there was still “a big job to do” in terms of skimming surface oil and better coordination on the ground along the shorelines. “There’s still going to be an enormous cleanup job to do, and there’s still going to be the whole set of issues surrounding making sure people are compensated properly, that the $20 billion fund is set up and is acting expeditiously,” Mr. Obama said.

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