On Tuesday, June 15, 2010, President Barack Obama conducted the first Oval Office address during his presidency to offer insight on combating the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The attack plan that President Obama set forth was reminiscent of speeches past presidents issued during wartime, but in this case, the enemy is oil. As with many battle plans, the plan President Obama set forth has multiple stages. An overview of the three-pronged plan of attack that will play out in the months, years, and decades to come follows:
Stage One: The Cleanup
Trying to contain and cleanup the oil spill that threatens the livelihood of many who live near the Gulf of Mexico, 30,000 workers have already begun laboring tirelessly. In addition to the workers who are already in action, 17,000 additional National Guard members will soon find themselves stationed along the oil-slicked coasts. These National Guard members from across the country will converge upon the coast and trade in their guns and combat boots for shovels and rubber waders.
Although this task will not draw on the traditional training of National Guard members, President Obama endeavored to make the efforts seem as urgent as any military strike. Obama conceded past and future battles in this oil war by stating “And sadly, no matter how effective our response becomes, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done.” Full cleanup of the oil spill will undoubtedly take years, and even though he believes the oil will exact a heavy toll, President Obama remains confident that success will eventually ensue.
Stage Two: The Recovery and Restoration
The war with oil, like any other extended conflict, will leave massive destruction in its oil-covered waked. Because of this fact, President Obama established a plan for the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast. President Obama detailed in the speech that his proposal in prior months to create new and “absolutely safe” drilling practices will need supervision. Although no drilling can be “absolutely safe,” the effort to ensure the safety of oil rig workers and the environment is commendable.
In order to help lead the oil industry toward implementing these measures, President Obama appointed Michael Bromwich to serve as the industry’s “watchdog, not its partner.” Appointing a watchdog seems like a wise decision when dealing with an industry that has lost the trust of many. As seen with President Bush’s attempts to ensure peace overseas throughout the War on Terror by deploying military watchdogs to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, attempting to oversee the activities of others can lead to increased animosity. Instead of increasing the positive impact that America can have on the oil industry, appointing watchdogs will likely only increase animosity and decrease positive steps toward safety.
Furthermore, President Obama seeks to aid those that the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill has affected by drilling into the deep pockets of BP. In the speech, President Obama declared, “We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused and we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.” Instead of dealing directly with BP, President Obama noted that the United States will make use of an independent arbiter.
The move to appoint an independent arbiter seems positive on the surface, but like oil spewing miles below the surface, the decision has danger. The United States government has no more control over an independent arbiter than it has over the executives of BP. Because of this, the fight to ensure that those the oil spill has affected receive their due compensation will likely entail extensive courtroom battles. As seen in the events following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, legal wrangling reduced the amount Exxon Valdez paid out from $2.5 billion to $500 million. Additionally, this legal maneuvering lasted 20 years and was often too late to help those in the greatest need. The same proves likely for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
Stage Three: Prevention of Future Disasters
In a decision for which he received extensive criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, President Obama spent a considerable amount of time during his speech addressing how to prevent future disasters. President Obama’s plan to counteract future disasters relies extensively on the pursuit of researching, implementing, and harnessing the benefits of alternative energy sources.
Although President Obama admitted the uncertainty of exactly how to pursue this alternative energy, he made it clear that ” . . . I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet.” Few would argue with the essence of President Obama’s urging, but many contend that the proposition did not have the correct timing. Critics of the speech rightfully note that future attempts to provide Americans with clean alternative energy sources does not address the problems that those in the Gulf Coast are presently experiencing.
President Obama used powerful illustrations from landing on the moon and artillery production during World War II to demonstrate the incredible capabilities of Americans have for innovations like alternative energy. Although the illustrations President Obama employed are helpful reminders of what Americans can accomplish, those in most distress due to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill want to know what innovations Americans can produce now to help relieve their present problems.