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Waste and Emissions»President likens the impact of oil spill to that of 9/11

»Tuesday, June 15,2010

President Barack Obama has compared the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to the 9/11 terror attacks because of the impact it will have on future US policy.

His comments came before he arrived in Mississippi to visit the stricken coastal area for a fourth time, later describing the environmental disaster as a “tragic ordeal”.

Obama said: “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.”

His comments drew criticisms from some of those who lost relatives in the 2001 plane attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, and from firefighters in the city.

Obama later called on his Democratic party and supporters to “embrace a new future” and back a government campaign for clean energy.

“We are working to hold BP accountable for the damage to the lands and the livelihoods of the Gulf Coast, and we are taking strong precautions to make certain a spill like this never happens again,” he said.

Obama is due to meet with BP chief executive Tony Hayward at the White House tomorrow to discuss key issues relating to the oil spill, which has damaged wildlife, beaches and businesses on the coastline. Top of the agenda is expected to be Obama’s demands for a multi-billion-dollar compensation fund to support those who have seen their livelihoods affected by the environmental disaster.

Last night, Obama said during a press conference that it was too early to make an announcement on the fund, but he hoped one would follow tomorrow’s meeting.

The president’s spokesman said: “We’re confident that this is a critical way in which we’re going to be able to help individuals and businesses in the Gulf area become whole again.”

Obama sought to reassure the public that the response to the oil spill was coming from a “national force” able to handle “almost any challenge”.

He added: “I can’t guarantee that the oil will be cleaned up overnight. It is going to take a long time for things to return to normal. There will be a harmful effect on local businesses. Some folks will be frustrated and other folks will be angry, but things are going to return to normal. This region will bounce back like it has before.”

The BP board met yesterday in London to discuss deferring its second-quarter dividend and putting the money into a holding fund until the company’s liabilities from the spill are known.

BP shares plunged more than 10% as investors fretted over the spiralling cost of the crisis which, the company said in a statement, had risen to $1.6 billion.

The president’s two-day visit to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida precedes his first-ever Oval Office address to the nation tonight.

He said that BP’s revised plan to stem the flow will allow 50,000 barrels of oil a day to be collected by the end of the month, two weeks faster than originally planned.
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