Last night, President Obama addressed the nation after his latest and longest trip to the Gulf of Mexico. The address was poetic, calm, and focused. The President clearly emphasized all of his major points: all possible actions are being taken by the government to clean up the spill; BP will be held financially accountable for all damages; the moratorium on offshore oil drilling will continue until better safety and environmental regulations are implemented; and the time for embracing clean energy is unequivocally now.
Obama's speech did not present much new information on the situation. However, I don't believe that was its intention.
Tonight was an opportunity for the President to step out into the forefront of this catastrophe and take the lead; an opportunity to tell the American people "I will take every action possible to guide us out of this debacle and into a better place." Tonight was an opportunity for President Obama to inspire Americans to believe in a new future -- a clean energy future, not dominated by the fossil fuel industries and their special interests.
There is no doubt the President is a gifted orator, but the time is coming where strong words are no longer enough, and bold action is necessary.
Here are some paraphrased highlights from President Obama's speech:
- I have assembled a team of leading experts to tackle the unprecedented and immense challenge to cap this oil leak. Through their efforts, 90% of the oil spilling out should be captured in the coming days and weeks, until the relief wells are drilled this summer.
- 30,000 personnel, thousands of ships, 17,000 national guard, and 5.5 million tons of boom have been deployed across four states to combat the oil spill. Make no mistake, we will fight it no matter how long it takes. However, clean-up will never be perfect. We have to recognize despite our best efforts oil has already hit our coastlines, and oil will continue to damage our Gulf coast.
- Residents of the Gulf states -- shrimpers, fishermen, restaurateurs, and other business owners -- believe their way of life is in jeopardy. I won't let this happen. BP CEO, Tony Hayward will need to set aside whatever resources are necessary to compensate Gulf State residents. This fund will not be overseen by BP; instead, it will be administered by an independent third party.
- Tonight I make a long-term commitment to rejuvenating the Gulf Coast. Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy and former Governor of Mississippi will be developing a long-term Gulf Restoration Plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by the Gulf states and local communities. BP will pay for this impact.
- I have established a National Commission to understand the causes of this disaster and what safety and environmental regulations must be implemented to allow deepwater drilling to continue.
- The Minerals Management Service will have new leadership. For the last decade it has embodied the philosophy that views all regulation with hostility. At this agency, fossil fuel industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight. This will no longer be the case. Michael Bromwich, a former federal prosecutor, will take over as the head of the agency. His task will be to change this agency from a fossil fuel industry partner to a watchdog.
- The time to embrace a clean energy future is now -- now is the moment to seize our destiny. The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but we have made significant progress in the last year and a half. Each of us has a part to play in this new future, but only if we seize this moment, if we speed up the transition toward a clean energy economy. There will be costs to this change (the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the American Power Act), but we can't afford not to change.
The President concluded his address by emphasizing, "one approach [to energy policy] 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."
Americans and those around the world hope your words ring true, Barack.
You can read the official transcript from the President's National Address, here.
Nathanael Baker is a writer and researcher who lives in Vancouver, BC. Besides contributing to Energyboom, Nathanael is also the Director of Research for the DeSmog Blog.
This article was originally published on the media outlet EnergyBoom and was reprinted with permission.