Obama's Options for Addressing Oil Spill

None of them looks too good

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With BP and the federal government still struggling to contain the oil spill that has wrought devastating environmental damage over the past month, President Obama faces some hard choices with no good options. BP's "top kill" has failed; White House energy and climate change adviser Carol Browner says the spill may not be fully stopped until mid-August, when relief wells can be completed. In the meantime, what can Obama do to contain the damage and demonstrate his control over a situation that is bringing political, as well as environmental and economic, damage?

  • BP Retries Old Strategy, but Optimism Is Low The New York Times' Clifford Krauss reports that BP will try to use another dome to stem the oil flow, but that approach failed last time and even if it worked would not be a total solution. "But, like all of BP's efforts so far, this method had never been tried at such depths before this spill. Moreover, if kinks in the riser are now reducing the amount of oil escaping, cutting the riser could unleash a greater flow. And the greatest worry of all may be the potential arrival of hurricanes in the gulf; hurricane season officially begins on Tuesday."
  • Using Dispersants Despite Health Concerns The Wall Street Journal's Jeffrey Ball writes, "A federally convened group of scientists is set to recommend that BP PLC and the government continue spraying chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico to help prevent leaking oil from washing ashore, even though the scientists have serious concerns about the potential long-term damage to sea life."
  • White House Distancing From BP The Washington Post's Greg Sargent asks, "Can the Obama administration really succeed in convincingly distancing itself from BP, more than a month after the spill erupted?" Among the many steps to demonstrate this, "Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen will no longer share the stage with BP execs when briefing the public on the disaster, another move designed to persuade the public that the Obama administration is in charge."
  • ...But Gov't Still Ultimately Reliant on BP The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne sighs, "There is a core problem at the heart of the Obama administration's public relations efforts in the oil spill: The government has neither the formal power nor the expertise to stop the spill on its own. Yet in a mess of this sort, everyone expects the president to be able to fix things."
  • May Bring Charges Against BP The Washington Post reports that Obama "is dispatching Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to the Gulf Coast to meet with federal and state prosecutors. The Holder trip could signal that the environmental calamity might become the subject of a criminal investigation." ABC News' Jake Tapper writes, "President Obama for the first time raised the possibility of criminal wrongdoing in the oil spill. 'If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region,' President Obama said."
  • Should Obama Show More Outrage? The New York Times' David Brooks urges, "They want him to emote and perform the proper theatrical gestures so they can see their emotions enacted on the public stage." The Washington Post's Greg Sargent dissents, "this is an entirely arbitrary yardstick with which to measure Obama's performance, and the bar will inevitably rise ever higher. Even those pundits who have suggested Obama has cleared the proper emotional threshold, such as David Broder, don't bother explaining how they reached this conclusion."
  • We Must Finally Address Energy Crisis   The New York Times' Bob Herbert insists, "However and whenever the well gets capped, what we really need is leadership that calls on the American public to begin coping in a serious and sustained way with an energy crisis that we've been warned about for decades. If the worst environmental disaster in the country's history is not enough to bring about a reversal of our epic foolishness on the energy front, then nothing will."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.