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President Barack Obama in the Oval Office President Barack Obama speaks after addressing the nation about the oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico on June 15, 2010. This was the President's first speech from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Oil Spill Addressed From the Oval Office

Oval Office speeches are rare events—President Obama dedicates his first one to the Gulf of Mexico oil-spill disaster

By Laura Leigh Davidson | June 16 , 2010

A speech by the President of the United States is always a big deal. But when the President addresses the nation from his desk in the Oval Office, it means that there is something going on that affects the country in a major way.

President Barack Obama made his first ever Oval Office speech to the nation on Tuesday. His subject was the oil-spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. He described efforts to contain and stop the eight-week-old spill much like a commander-in-chief illustrates the conflicts of a war.

"Tonight, I've returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we're waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens," President Obama said.

He talked about the incredible challenges the deepwater spill has presented. Obama explained that containing the oil gusher had "tested the limits of human technology."

The President resolved once again to restore the Gulf Coast. He also said BP would be responsible for paying the cost of the "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced." BP was operating the oil rig when it had an explosion on April 20, causing the spill.

Restoring Residents and Repairing the Region

Obama said he would inform the chairman of BP that his company must create a fund that will compensate the workers and business owners who are affected by the spill. On Wednesday, BP agreed and said it would set aside about $20 billion to pay current and future damage claims.

The President also said that former Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus would work with Gulf Coast residents to develop a long-term plan to repair the oil-spill damage to the environment and wildlife of the Gulf Coast region. Obama said BP will foot the bill for this operation too.

Steps Toward Safer Drilling

In May, Obama ordered a six-month halt on any new deepwater oil drilling.

This new-drilling halt comes with a cost. Many people who work on oil rigs have been laid off because of the deepwater-drilling freeze.

"I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs," the President said. "But for the sake of their safety, and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue."

An investigation of the April 20 oil-rig explosion that killed 11 people is currently under way.

Obama has also appointed a new head of the Minerals Management Service, the government agency that regulates oil drilling in the U.S. The agency is expected to set much stricter rules and safety standards for any future offshore drilling.

Call to Clean Energy


The President acknowledged that even with stricter rules, oil drilling comes with great risks. He emphasized that oil is a limited resource.

"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," he said.

He urged lawmakers, business people, scientists, and all citizens to "rally together" to move the U.S. away from its dependence on fossil fuels and use more clean energy resources like wind and solar power.

Residents React

Many Gulf Coast residents say they believe Obama is genuinely concerned about how the oil spill is affecting their lives and income.

But many are also skeptical about how long it will take to receive compensation, or payment, for what they have lost.

"I'm 51 years old. I cannot wait 10 to 15 years to get back in business," Louisiana shrimper Dean Blanchard told CNN. "[BP] took away the thing I love most in the world."

TRACKING THE OIL SPILL DISASTER

Scholastic News Online has been tracking the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Click here for a collection of news stories, video, a kids' poll, and other resources that will grow as the events of this environmental disaster unfold.

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