Obama Speech Demonstrates Capabilty and Compassion over Oily Gulf

President Obama’s recent prime time address from the Oval Office was both heralded and critiqued by a variety of journalistic pundits.    This BLOG post collects and combines several descriptions of the speech’s main points. After that you will find a wide range of commentary from highly complementary to strongly skeptical.  Click the link below to learn more about this social, economic and ecological disaster. The most important thing is for each of us to become educated, enraged and engaged over what has and continues to happen to one of the world’s most precious and precarious natural and social systems.

Gulf Oil Spill from Above

Obama Says Spill Shows U.S. Must Cut Oil ‘Addiction’ (Update3)
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 – Bloomberg News

President Barack Obama said the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is an urgent call for action to cut U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and vowed that BP Plc will be required to spend whatever is needed to repair damage caused by the company’s “recklessness.”

“For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels,” Obama said in a speech tonight, his first national address delivered from the Oval Office. “And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.”

Obama said he will tell BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg in a White House meeting tomorrow that the London-based company must set aside “whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness.”  That fund must be administered by an independent third party to make sure claims of economic damage are paid “in a fair and timely manner,” he said. …

Sea Gull (in White) Hovers over Sickening Slick

To deal with the aftermath of the spill, Obama said he’s asked Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, the former governor of Mississippi to develop a restoration plan for the Gulf region. Obama repeated that “BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.”  Obama also named former Justice Department official Michael Bromwich to revamp federal management of offshore oil and gas exploration as part of an effort to clean up an agency he says has been plagued by corruption and a “cozy” relationship with the industry it regulates.

Obama tonight reiterated his backing for legislation that would encourage development of alternative energy sources and aim to reduce U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.  “The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now,” Obama said. …

The president also sought to demonstrate that the government’s response has been effective, saying “millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water.” He also sought to deflect comparisons to the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  “Unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it is not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days,” he said. “The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.”

Obama speech from Oval Office urges action on clean energy bill
By Scott Wilson and Anne E. Kornblut – June 16, 2010; A01

In his first Oval Office address, Obama compared the need to end the country’s “addiction to fossil fuels” to its emergency preparations for World War II and the mission to the moon. Hours after the government sharply increased its estimate of how much oil is flowing into the gulf, the president warned that risks will continue to rise because “we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.” He called for fast Senate action on an energy bill that has already passed the House.  “There are costs associated with this transition, and some believe we can’t afford those costs right now,” Obama said. “I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy, because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security and our environment are far greater.” …

The fact that Obama himself chose to deliver his message from the Oval Office underscored the extent of the disaster, both in terms of its environmental and economic impact on the gulf region and the political ramifications it holds in a midterm election year. The spill, which began April 20, has challenged the administration’s cultivated image of competence and Obama’s skill in using the right tone to discuss a widening environmental catastrophe that is in many ways out of his control. …

President Obama Will Get Our Money from and Make an Example of the Bucanneer BP

A presidential push for energy reform could energize a dispirited Democratic base heading into the fall campaign season. Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama on a range of issues — including the still-stumbling economy and his escalation of the war in Afghanistan — and the president’s top advisers consider energy and the environment issues where he could work to restore his standing. But administration officials doubt the energy bill has enough support to pass in the Senate.  “The votes don’t exist now,” one senior White House official said. “But he is going to press for it.”

The Oval Office address was Obama’s most pointed attempt since the spill began to explain how the crisis should be leveraged on behalf of long-term reform, and it could well be his last chance to do so this year on a national scale. He said he will listen to ideas from all parties, adding that “the one approach I will not accept is inaction.” …

“The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight,” Obama said. “Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.”

Obama details oil spill response, calls for energy reform
By the CNN Wire Staff

The 18-minute speech, televised nationally, described what happened in the April 20 explosion and fire on a Gulf of Mexico oil rig that led to what Obama called “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.” He compared the millions of gallons of oil leaking into the ocean to an epidemic “we will be fighting for months and even years.” …

Obama also called the Gulf oil disaster “the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.” The United States must end its dependence on fossil fuels, he said, calling for Congress to rise above partisan politics to take on the challenge of passing energy reform legislation that will lead the way to development of a clean energy economy.

In an attempt to counter complaints of a sluggish government response to the oil disaster, Obama noted cited resources have poured into the region including nearly 30,000 people working in four states to contain and clean up the oil, along with “thousands of ships and other vessels.” He said he had authorized deployment of more than 17,000 National Guard members along the coast to be used as needed by state governors. …

Environmentalists supported Obama’s call for Congress to pass energy reform legislation, with former Vice President Al Gore, now chairman of the Alliance for Climate Protection, saying that “in the midst of the greatest environmental disaster in our country’s history, there is no excuse to do otherwise.”  Ultimately, Gore said in statement, “the only way to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again is to fundamentally change how we power our economy.”

A glimmer of leadership in Obama’s Oval Office speech
By David Ignatius  |  June 15, 2010; 10:18 PM ET

“Seize the moment” was the signature line for me in the speech, in political and policy terms. Obama needs to take the opportunity of the oil-spill crisis to show that he is a leader — not in the ridiculous “kick some ass” language that some macho-challenged advisers had earlier encouraged, but with real policy proposals.

Obama was right to say that we are drilling a mile deep in the gulf because we are exhausting, with our voracious energy appetite, safer sources on land or in shallow water. And he was especially right to say that the nightmare of the gulf oil spill won’t end until we find alternatives to our economic dependence on fossil fuels. …

I liked him better Tuesday night than I have in a while — tired, beat-up politically, but not playing to the crowd with easy put-downs of BP CEO Tony Hayward or profit-mongering Big Oil. There’s a glimmer of real leadership there, but not yet the bright beam.

What Obama’s speech on the BP oil spill was lacking.
By John Dickerson – June 15, 2010, at 10:33 PM ET

The president offered the rhetorical flourishes we expect and was specific in some cases—he called for a fund to pay Gulf residents that would not be controlled by BP—he talked about deploying the National Guard and putting the secretary of the Navy in charge of restoring the wetlands not just to their condition before the spill but better. He charged BP with “recklessness” and promised that the company would pay. He promised that he wouldn’t forget the Gulf. …

The president is constrained. He can’t stop the leak. And he doesn’t seem to be able to do much about the confusion reported on the ground. Reaction plans are being hatched on the fly. The speech felt like more of a management update of the crisis than an attempt to take command of it.

Maybe the call for a heroic moment of command is too much to ask for. Still, the president made the situation worse for himself. The use of the language of war created the imbalance. He talked of a “battle” and “siege,” but like all the other times when war has been misused—the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the economic war Joe Biden declared last year—the action taken didn’t match the words used to describe the menace. Prudent, methodical, and secure … Wait a minute. There’s a war going on. Shouldn’t we be doing something more?

The BP Speech: Obama Still Refuses to Lead
By Zach Carter, AlterNet – June 15, 2010,

The speech was woefully insufficient as a response to the worst environmental catastrophe in history. But it would be a mistake to view the shortcomings of tonight’s BP speech as an isolated failure. Tonight’s address, instead, is indicative of a now well-established pattern in the president’s governing strategy. Obama does not advocate for reforms, he advocates for consensus, and his rhetorical insistence on fixing a “broken” Washington and entering a new “bipartisan” era has rendered his administration utterly subservient to the very problems he seeks to transcend.

When we say that Washington is broken, we mean many things, but the core issue is whether top policymakers are still capable of enacting policies in the public interest. But Obama has steadfastly refused to stick his neck out on almost any policy during his presidency. Passing a health care reform bill was the goal, not securing the public option that could rein in long-term health care costs. Passing the stimulus was the goal, not passing one large enough to actually break the back of the recession. After tonight’s speech, it’s not clear what, exactly, Obama is fighting for on climate change, but he is adamant about not alienating “either party.” …

There are limits to what a U.S. president can accomplish, particularly when one political party entirely devotes itself to blocking his agenda, regardless of the effect on the citizenry’s well-being. But a leader does not simply refuse to fight when faced with difficult odds. And despite the small-bore reforms outlined in tonight’s speech—a new chief for the regulatory agency responsible for overseeing Deepwater Horizon—Obama explicitly backed away from anything resembling a fight over energy or environmental policy.

Younger Obama as university professor discusses Power as it arises from self interest!!

Oval office speech: Did Obama turn a corner?
By E.J. Dionne  |  June 15, 2010; 9:47 PM ET

President Obama tried to do two things in his Oval Office speech tonight. He wanted to show he was in charge by describing all he and his administration is doing to stop the Gulf oil spill while repairing the damage it has caused. But he also tried to turn the crisis into an opportunity to make the case for a new energy policy and for government’s role in regulating the economy. …

The most intriguing aspect of the speech was his invocation not of any recent war, but of World War II. That was FDR’s war, the war that produced both exceptional national unity and a great deal of progressive change. Obama seems to want to harness the ideas and technology of the 21st Century to the spirit and temperament of the 1940s. It’s not a bad idea. But to get the argument to this level, he needs some visible successes on the gulf coast that in turn produce a new story line in the media. That, of course, requires more than a speech.

The Obama Speech – Joe Klein – June 16, 2010

I’m on record in favor of placing a stiff price on carbon, and moving as quickly as possible toward alternative fuels, I suspect that yet another major Obama policy crusade would put the public on government overload just a few months before a significant election. So what he did last night and today–especially the $20 billion BP escrow account–seems good enough for now and I have no doubt that if the sky doesn’t fall on his presidency, he’ll be as persistent on green policy as he’s been on everything else.

One other thing: I’ve been finding it hard to get as wrapped up in this oil spill story as most of my colleagues. A good part of it is my obsession with other things: the war in Afghanistan, the middle east and the coming elections. But it’s also attributable to a sneaking sense that this situation is truly BP: beyond politics. It is an outrage, to be sure. British Petroleum is irresponsible, reprehensible and any other -ible you want to throw in. The Minerals Management Service was a Bush-Cheney swamp of corruption and lassitude. But I’m not sure–beyond a better brand of atmospherics–that Barack Obama could have done all that much to alter the gush once it started.

Obama’s Oil Speech: The Choir Vs. the Preacher
James Poniewozik Wednesday, June 16, 2010

People who follow the news and politics closely come to a Presidential Oval Office speech with a list of expectations: policy aims, specific targets, forceful rhetoric, political positioning, expressions of leadership, definitions of problems, proposals of solutions, framing of issues and concrete calls to action. For the broad audience, a Presidential TV speech needs to answer the question: Why are you interrupting our shows? Or, put less cynically: what is the problem that requires this extraordinary attention at this point in time, and what’s your plan?

Last night, some of the harshest critics of Barack Obama’s speech on the BP oil disaster were some TV personalities who have been most in his corner, including Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow at MSNBC (not that  conservatives liked it any better, of course), while  pundit support of the speech seemed qualified at best. I suspect that the speech may have played better among the general audience than the media commentators, though I have absolutely no concrete evidence for that—just the general suspicion that if there’s something close to consensus among the media on anything, then it is probably wrong. …

It may be that the simple fact of the speech—a restrained address from the inner sanctum of the Presidency—was enough for non-politically-fixated viewers. The question is whether they were satisfied with the broadly outlined solutions that Obama suggested and accept the solutions that he’s powerless to provide (i.e., immediately stopping the oil flow), and whether they were inspired by Obama’s spiritual closing, that “we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day”—or if they were rather hoping that the President might actually be that hand.

Nothing But Net by Paul Begala – June 15, 2010

Obama entered the Oval Office on the run for critics blasting his response to the BP oil spill. He left having once again shown why his calm, cool approach connects with the country.  In his first address from the Oval Office, Barack Obama was forceful and focused; comfortable yet commanding. The only surprise was that I was so surprised. I should have seen this coming. ..

His high school teammates called the future president “Barry O’Bomber” for his proclivity for launching long-range jump shots, and tonight he took yet one more high-pressure shot from downtown. Nothing but net.  The timing of when you shoot a tre is important: the later they come in a game, the more they matter. Three-pointers are the dagger that can put the game away or bring a team back from the dead. Tonight’s speech was the latter. …

As one who has been critical of the president’s response to the disaster so far, I was enormously impressed with this speech. Obama communicated his personal commitment, and the commitment of the entire country, to the people of the Gulf region. He called for a new energy economy – one that creates more jobs and costs fewer lives. Perhaps most important, he made accountability a presidential priority. BP must be punished; the people of the Gulf must be made whole; the American coastline must be reclaimed.

He closed on an emotionally resonant note for all of us who grew up fishing in the Gulf: the blessing of the fleet. In so doing he told us that he gets it. He understands this is not about barrels of oil and billions of dollars. This is about a way of life. This is about a life-giving region. And this is about the eleven lives that were lost. …

Barack Obama has been compared to Michael Jordan, but to me the president is more reminiscent of Jerry West. Exceedingly disciplined, sometimes maddeningly under control in an emotional sport, West was never one for high-flying, death-defying 360-dunks. But with the game on the line he rarely missed. That’s why they called him Mister Clutch.

Obama’s Oil Spill Speech: What Was The Point? – 06-15-10

Here’s what we learned, instead: there was a huge oil spill, did you hear? And a team of “scientists and engineers” were assembled. Somehow, by dint of this assemblage (“As a result of these efforts,” said Obama), BP has been “directed… to mobilize additional equipment and technology.” And from there, somehow, “In the coming days and weeks, these efforts should capture up to 90% of the oil leaking out of the well.” I don’t know how any of that works, at all, but that’s the story: up to 90% of the oil will soon be captured, with “equipment and technology” because some dudes met in a room.

Obama went on to remind viewers that the federal government had mobilized its efforts to help the stricken region right away, and that further efforts are forthcoming, but that the oil spill — which is an “assault” and an “epidemic” — will continue to damage the region.

But the good news is that I did learn something about local Gulf Coast traditions:

Each year, at the beginning of shrimping season, the region’s fishermen take part in a tradition that was brought to America long ago by fishing immigrants from Europe. It’s called “The Blessing of the Fleet,” and today it’s a celebration where clergy from different religions gather to say a prayer for the safety and success of the men and women who will soon head out to sea – some for weeks at a time.

The ceremony goes on in good times and in bad. It took place after Katrina, and it took place a few weeks ago – at the beginning of the most difficult season these fishermen have ever faced.

And still, they came and they prayed. For as a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, “The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always,” a blessing that’s granted “…even in the midst of the storm.”

So that’s the plan: pray like you were a bayou fisherman. Fantastic.

We Need Plans, Not Prayers by Mark McKinnon – June 16, 2010

I wanted the president to knock the speech out of the park. I am rooting for Obama to succeed in the Gulf. I want him to marshal the complete resources of the federal government to engineer a response appropriate to the level of the environmental crisis we face. I want him to demonstrate a level of leadership commensurate to the catastrophe.

There is no doubt he is trying. There is no doubt he understands the significance of the crisis and the potential for damage to the coast, our economy, and his presidency.  But Tuesday night’s speech felt more like a series of singles and bunts to get men in scoring position than swinging for the fences to clear the bases and score big. …

You might expect criticism like the following from Fox News analysts, but here’s just a sampling from Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC: “Great speech if you’d been on another planet for the last 57 days…He aimed really low—in fact he didn’t aim at all…Nothing specific enough…Didn’t address the bigger picture…I don’t sense executive command…A missed opportunity.”  And perhaps the cruelest blow of all, Matthews compared Obama to Jimmy Carter. Ouch. …

Obama closed his speech by asking us all to pray. That’s what we’ve been doing. We don’t need more prayers, we need more plans.  Final grades: A for effort, B for style, C for content.

Floating Above the Chaos by Tina Brown – June 15, 2010

The speech showcased what he has always shown us he is good at—articulating the overarching goal, and ramping up the rhetoric to meet it. But he cited too many names that have already lost our vote. Salazar, you’re doing a helluva job! Obama’s supposedly stellar Secretary of the Interior strikes the rest of us as doing a good impersonation of being all hat and no cattle—the guy who called himself the “sheriff” but put few of the miscreants at MMS under arrest. And Energy Secretary Steven Chu, leading what Obama called “a team of nation’s best scientists and engineers” in combating the spill, even as he ups the estimate of how much is gushing out from the ocean floor: the fishermen of the Gulf probably have views of where he can put his Nobel. …

His reinforcement of a six-month moratorium on deep-sea drilling for safety checks reprised my conviction, that Obama, for all his brilliance, has no real, felt understanding of management structures or of business. Surely it was weirdly trusting of him, when he knew the MMS was corrupt, to start the offshore drilling initiative without those safety guarantees already empirically nailed down. And surely his crack team of sheriffs and admirals and Nobel laureates could now pull some all-nighters and retool the safety measures in a matter of weeks, not months.

Swimming Against the Current by Nicolle Wallace – June 16, 2010

The problem with tonight’s calm, polished address isn’t that it lacked passion. It’s time for people to stop whining about our passionless president. The problem with Obama’s speech is that no matter how artful the rhetoric, President Obama can’t say anything that will match the power of the images we’ll wake up to tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that. Even the clips from tonight’s address will run on split screens with live images of the gusher. And in the days, weeks and months ahead, the images will only become more wrenching as wildlife and miles and miles of pristine coastline are covered with crude. …  Obama said Tuesday night that he would not settle for inaction. I’m sure those were welcome words to the exasperated state and local leaders of the Gulf coast states. He said “if something doesn’t work, we want to hear about it.” I’m sure his phone is already ringing.

This Incompetent and Corrupt Cowboy Needs to Hit the Trail to the Last Round-up!!

Wasting a Crisis by Margaret Carlson – June 15, 2010

Obama missed an opportunity to do something concrete about the oil spill—firing his Interior Secretary. If only the president had shut down Interior’s Mineral Management Service instead of opening up new offshore drilling sites. This is where bipartisanship gets you into trouble. Instead he lamented that the problems “ran much deeper” than Ken Salazar knew (he only instituted new ethics guidelines against folks having sex and doing drugs with their charges). He could have known. Everyone who read the paper over the last few years did. Show him the door.   Obama also looked weak, summoned to the Gulf multiple times and to an Oval Office speech because the press is unhappy with his response. A cold, steely stare at BP is more effective than feeling our pain.  And worst of all, he didn’t push an energy bill. We just saw a crisis being wasted.

Obama’s Speech: Calling for Courage, but Showing Little
By Michael Crowley / Jun. 16, 2010

The BP oil-spill disaster must be one of the most confounding experiences of President Barack Obama’s adult life. It’s not that the man can’t handle a challenge: he dove into a brutal campaign fight with Hillary Clinton in 2008 and took on the grueling cause of health reform despite his advisers’ warnings. But the undersea BP gusher confounds many of his strengths. The environment has never been one of Obama’s chief passions. Unlike the intricacies of health care or America’s strategic posture, the oil well is largely a managerial challenge, not an intellectual one — and an inspirational call to action won’t do much. What’s more, the spill has put Obama in an absurd and impossible position. Pundits and Republicans are demanding that he do more, when in fact his power here is extremely limited — something Obama understands and probably resents. …

But since Obama’s inability to stop the leak limited the power of his address, he did his best to make the moment one about something larger: a shift away from fossil fuels that would make deepwater drilling obsolete, as well as limiting the pace of climate change. This is where his strengths would come in. Sweeping energy reform is a matter of offering a big vision, mustering political will and grappling with complex intellectual and policy questions. It is also an issue that requires bravery — bravery of the sort Obama demonstrated when he pressed on with health care, even after Scott Brown’s victory. As he put it last night, “Time and again, the path forward [to energy innovation] has been blocked — not only by oil-industry lobbyists but also by a lack of political courage and candor.”

Beyond theatrics, how to rate Obama on oil spill response

In the aftermath of the first Oval Office address of his presidency, Obama should be judged less on his stagecraft and more on how he handles five key aspects of the crisis:

  • Stopping the spill. Unless you subscribe to the president-as-Superman theory of government, Obama has little ability to shut off the well’s raging tap. He has organized scientists to look for innovative answers, which is worthwhile, but the engineering expertise lies with the industry, and BP already has enormous motivation to end the spill fast.
  • Cleaning up the oil. The government did a dreadful job of making sure the oil industry had the means to plug a deep-ocean gusher. In his speech Tuesday night, Obama again blamed this on the Bush administration, and with plenty of cause. The cozy relationship between the industry and its regulator was well documented long before the spill. But for that very reason, the current administration also shares the blame. It didn’t apply any substantive fix.
  • Helping people and businesses harmed by the spill. Tens of thousands of people who make a living from the Gulf have seen their business dwindle or dry up, a human and economic disaster that will last long after the well is plugged. BP has a responsibility to make them whole, and the president has not been shy about saying so. But that’s the easy part. BP is a friendless political punching bag. The trick will be to get help to people who need it quickly and steadily without killing off the revenue stream by bankrupting the company.
  • Preventing a repeat. Obama is expected to ensure that a blowout like this never happens again — which, of course, is impossible to guarantee as long as human beings and their potentially faulty judgments are involved. Even so, more than verbal reassurances are needed before deep drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, now on hold for six months, resumes.
  • Taking the nation beyond petroleum. There’s not much to add to Obama’s compelling dissection Tuesday of the nation’s decades-long failure to address its deepening addiction to foreign oil. Whether Obama can break that pattern could be the true test — one that will matter long after the spill is cleaned up.

This nation already imports two-thirds of its oil, often enriching hostile nations. Even with aggressive action, it will take decades to supplant the liquid fuels that power the more than 254 million cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles now on U.S. roads. The investment will also be expensive, which makes it politically poisonous. Even so, it’s the best way to create some lasting good from this disaster.  First, though, let’s clean up the oil.

Address to the Nation on the BP Oil Spill
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 – Oval Office – Selected Quotes

Because there has never been a leak of this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology.  That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge – a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy.  Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.

Because of our efforts, millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming, and other collection methods.  Over five and a half million feet of boom has been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil.  We have approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try and stop the oil before it reaches the shore, and we are working with Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines.

These precious and priceless birds should not have to suffer for BP's greed.

You know, for generations, men and women who call this region home have made their living from the water.  That living is now in jeopardy.  I’ve talked to shrimpers and fishermen who don’t know how they’re going to support their families this year.  I’ve seen empty docks and restaurants with fewer customers – even in areas where the beaches are not yet affected.  I’ve talked to owners of shops and hotels who wonder when the tourists will start to come back.  The sadness and anger they feel is not just about the money they’ve lost.  It’s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.

Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short-term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region.  The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that has already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats.  And the region still hasn’t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.

One of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling.  But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk.  After all, oil is a finite resource.  We consume more than 20% of the world’s oil, but have less than 2% of the world’s oil reserves.  And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean – because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.

This is not some distant vision for America.  The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but over the last year and a half, we have already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry.  As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels.  Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient.  Scientists and researchers are discovering clean energy technologies that will someday lead to entire new industries.

All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fear hearing in the months ahead.  But the one approach I will not accept is inaction.  The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet.  You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II.  The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon.  And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom.  Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is our capacity to shape our destiny – our determination to fight for the America we want for our children.  Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like.  Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there.  We know we’ll get there.

The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face.  This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again.  What sees us through – what has always seen us through – is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it.  Tonight, we pray for that courage.  We pray for the people of the Gulf.  And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day.  Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.


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