President Barack Obama says that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster “echoes 9/11″ in its power to change the course of American history.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“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,Ã¢â‚¬Â Obama said in an interview with Politico’s Roger Simon.
Obama Ã¢â‚¬â€ facing mounting criticism of his handling of the BP gusher, even from longtime allies Ã¢â‚¬â€ vowed to make a Ã¢â‚¬Å“boldÃ¢â‚¬Â push for a new energy law even as the calamity continues to unfold. And he said he will use the rest of his presidency to try to put the United States on a course toward a Ã¢â‚¬Å“new way of doing business when it comes to energy.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In his firmest declaration yet that he views the calamity as an impetus to push Congress afresh to pass a major energy and climate bill, Obama vowed to Ã¢â‚¬Å“move forward in a bold way in a direction that finally gives us the kind of future-oriented, Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ visionary energy policy that we so vitally need and has been absent for so long..Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“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,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
The White House announced Sunday that the president will hold a televised address to the nation on Tuesday evening to discuss the oil spill.
It is comparatively rare for presidents to use the formal setting of a prime-time televised address from the White House. Such addresses are often reserved for moments of national crises, including wars and disasters.
Obama has yet to give an Oval Office address to the American people, though it has not been decided yet whether he will appear at the presidential desk flanked by US flags in that setting on Tuesday evening.
The Obama administration also stepped up the pressure on BP, demanding it set up an escrow account to pay individuals and businesses hit by the disaster and calling for an independent panel to oversee the claims process.
Obama’s address and the more stringent demands of BP suggest a concerted effort to be more aggressive on the disaster as angry Americans are confronted by disturbing images of oiled birds and toxic crude spoiling fragile wetlands.
BP has failed several times to seal the flow and the first relief well that could provide a permanent solution is not predicted to be ready until the second week of August at the earliest.
A containment system is siphoning up some 15,000 barrels of oil a day to the surface via a mile-long pipe but flow estimates indicate the same amount of crude could still being leaking into the Gulf and feeding the giant spill.
The US Coast Guard has given BP until Sunday to fine-tune plans to increase the capacity of its “top hat” oil capture system amid fears of a time lapse while oil processing vessels are rotated.
Businesses in the Gulf region, ranging from fishing to tourism, are suffering. Some workers are finding temporary employment with BP to help in the clean-up effort, but longer-term prospects are bleak.
– With AFP