In an indication of the depth of his administration's concern over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday spoke directly to the American people in a rare televised address from the Oval Office.
During the address, Mr. Obama not only underscored — as he has done repeatedly over the last few weeks — the various steps his government had taken to combat the disaster in the Gulf but also made the case for ending the United States' “addiction” to fossil fuel.
Outlining what he called his “battle plan” to tackle the consequences of the leak, Mr. Obama laid out three dimensions of his strategy: the clean-up operation, recovery and restoration of affected areas and persons, and ensuring that such a catastrophe never recurred.
In terms of the cleanup, Mr. Obama said that through the efforts led by Coast Guard chief Admiral Thad Allen, there were nearly 30,000 personnel working across four states to contain and clean up the oil. Over five-and-a-half million feet of boom had been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil.
With regard to recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast, Mr. Obama said he will not let the way of life of fishermen and other coastal residents be lost. He said he would direct the chairman of BP, whom he would be meeting on Wednesday, 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.” Mr. Obama added that this fund would not be controlled by BP but by an independent third party.
Mr. Obama emphasised on the steps being taking to ensure that “a disaster like this does not happen again.” A National Commission had been established to understand the causes of this disaster and recommend additional safety and environmental standards where needed.
He noted that he had also sought to reform the ailing Minerals Management Service, the agency responsible for regulating drilling and issuing permits. In part he hoped this would be aided by his decision to bring in new leadership at the agency in the form of Michael Bromwich, a “tough federal prosecutor and Inspector-General,” who has been charged with building an organisation that acted as “the oil industry's watchdog — not its partner.”