Obama criticizes BP CEO
Barack Obama has launched a scathing attack on initial comments made by BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, which seemed to suggest there would be a minimum environmental impact from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The US president – who made his third trip to assess the damage done to the Louisiana coast last week – said that if he were in charge of BP, the chief executive “wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements ”.
The Obama comments, made in an interview with NBC to be broadcast on Tuesday, form part of White House efforts to address criticism that it has not been forceful enough since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20.
The US president also raised questions about whether safety measures had been properly adhered to.
The criticism came as BP began increasing the amount of oil it is capturing from the Macondo well while admitting that it was still far from staunching the flow.
According to US government estimates, somewhere between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels of oil are pouring out of the well each day – and possibly even more since BP cut away a damaged pipe as part of its efforts to fit the cap.
The company hopes to ramp up the collection capacity to about 20,000 barrels a day as it adjusts the cap and brings online a secondary system that uses equipment installed as part of failed efforts to plug the leak.
The British oil company retrieved about 11,000 barrels on Sunday, up from 10,500 a day earlier, through a containment cap fitted over the ruptured wellhead late last week.
BP said that it was working on three new designs for containment caps, which would allow the company to trap more oil and could be deployed by the end of the month.
Admiral Thad Allen, of the US Coast Guard and the admiral in charge of the federal response, warned on Monday that even after two relief wells designed to plug the well are completed – scheduled for August – the Coast Guard will be at work cleaning up the mess for at least four more weeks.
In the UK, Chris Huhne, energy secretary, announced the doubling of environmental inspections of rigs operating in British waters and predicted the disaster would “transform the regulation of deep water drilling worldwide”.
On Monday Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, underscored the tougher line the Obama administration has taken against BP. “[BP] are the responsible party. They are going to bear the costs there,” he said. “Those costs are likely to greatly exceed what the oil that is recouped is sold for.”
BP said it had spent about $1.25bn so far on the spill. Shares in BP fell sharply in afternoon London trading, standing 7 per cent lower at 399.8p. The shares have fallen almost 40 per cent since the Deepwater accident was announced.
Adm Allen admitted that federal agencies had been slow to react, but said they had been hampered by the dispersed nature of the spill and inappropriate command structures.