With anger mounting over the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast, President Obama is set to deliver his first address from the Oval Office tonight to speak to the nation regarding the government’s response. The President toured sites in Mississippi and Alabama yesterday, his fourth trip to the region since an offshore BP oil rig explosion killed 11 employees and ruptured an underwater pipe, spewing millions of barrels of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding waterways. The spill stands as the nation’s worst environmental disasters, exceeding the damage done by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989.
Source: The White House
Sensing the rising toll for the cleanup and the cost to cover losses by industry in the Gulf region, the President has demanded that BP set up a special account to cover spill claims. The company’s stock has taken a hit and there is some concern over its long-term viability given the extent of the cleanup effort that will be required. A sign of BP’s precarious financial condition is the controversy brewing over whether the company should be issuing close to $11 billion in dividends to stockholders when those affected by the oil spill are claiming they are having difficulty obtaining compensation from the oil giant.
In his speech tonight, scheduled for 8 p.m. (EDT), the President is expected to maintain his hard line stand against BP while also using the occasion to focus attention on the nation’s oil dependency. Not since the Arab oil embargo of the late 1970’s, has an American President had a platform to compel Americans to reconsider its energy consumption habits and to offer alternatives to petroleum. With rising public anger over the images oil soaked birds and turtles, President Obama can use the speech to force Americans to reflect inwardly and consider their own personal energy habits.
Congress is also getting into the act, with two key Democrats on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), preparing to grill BP CEO Tony Hayward when he testifies before the committee on Thursday. The two Congressmen sent the BP executive a letter criticizing the company’s operation of the Gulf oil well based upon internal documents that raised concerns over the well’s operations in the weeks before the April 20 explosion.
As the oil spill becomes entangled in political and partisan debates in the nation’s capital, the immediate impact of the disaster is being felt by the fishing and tourism industries in the area. There is a growing fear that seafood will be tainted and sensing rising concerns President Obama made it a point to eat local seafood during his visit to the Gulf yesterday. He also encouraged Americans to visit Gulf Coast