News / USA

Obama Says He Will Not Rest Until Oil Spill is Contained

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Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama is angrily blasting oil industry officials who he says are failing to accept blame for the massive oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico.  The president says all parties need to take responsibility, including the government.

President Obama says he is angry and frustrated by oil executives' response to the catastrophic spill, after a BP oil rig blew up last month off the Louisiana coast.

In the White House Rose Garden, the president told reporters the finger-pointing needs to stop.

"I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter," said Obama.  "You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else.  The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly was not."

Mr. Obama said some of the blame extends into his own administration.  He said he will force government regulators to make it tougher for oil companies to get drilling permits.

"For too long, for a decade or more, there has been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill," he added.  "It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies.  That cannot and will not happen anymore."

As the president spoke, robots at the bottom of the Gulf tried to move a tube into the pipe that has pumped millions of liters of oil into the water.  BP said it hoped to know within hours whether the tube had successfully diverted the oil to a tanker at the surface.

Mr. Obama admitted that there is uncertainty about exactly how much oil is being spilled.  He said government efforts have been geared toward the possibility of a "catastrophic event."

The president said the system "failed and failed badly," and everyone involved bears the responsibility for fixing it.

"The oil companies share it; the manufacturers of this equipment share it; the agencies in the federal government in charge of oversight share that responsibility," he added.  "I will not tolerate more finger pointing or irresponsibility."

Mr. Obama called on Congress to quickly pass legislation to spend more money to clean up the spill, and to provide unemployment assistance and job training to people affected by the crisis.

After the spill, the president asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to reform the government agency that oversees oil drilling.  Salazar said this week the part of the agency which permits oil and gas drilling and collects royalties will be separated from the part which inspects the safety of oil rigs.

Mr. Obama said he has enacted other reforms, including re-examining the environmental procedures for oil and gas exploration and development.

A map of some of the world's worst oil spills:

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