An African's perspective. The American President, Mr Obama, finally met with BP officials in Washington. This is the first time they met over a course of 60 days of oil spill which according to experts, is now leaking at the rate of 60,000 barrels a day. This is two times the rate that was previously estimated. The disaster grows. Yet it is amazing that Obama and the CEO had not met or spoke previously.
The oil spill is a tremendous assault on the shores, environment and the citizens of America. Oil has been spewing into the sea for 2 months since the BP rig exploded. When Mr Obama met with BP officials this week over the oil spill crisis, he asked them to do more and faster and to compensate the victims by setting aside an amount of $20 billion for claims and clean up. Obama further said that BP should not control the disbursements from this fund. This issue will be decided soon. The British oil giant also agreed to suspend dividends for the next 3 quarters. Obama insists that any monies first be paid to the American victims. On this, BP admitted it is ready to pay all legitimate claims. Whether it will need to or will pay more than the $20 Billion is a decision for a future day.
BP has launched a $60 million public relations campaign over this oil crisis. Its once stellar reputation is now damaged. BP’s market value has fallen by billions of dollars since April 22 and its share value has plunged to a 14 years low this week due to this oil spill. A PR Campaign may never restore this.
Indeed, this disaster threatens to overshadow the President’s entire domestic agenda. Widespread criticism has been levied against his failure for more decisive and earlier action. One of those acts should have been talking with the BP CEO as partners not opponents. The oil spill calamity could impact Obama’s political future because the crisis may determine whether he serves a second term. While the President says that he accepts the responsibility for resolving this problem, critics say that this oil spill disaster will be the most important part of his legacy.
In the most recent polls, Americans are not happy with the Federal Government's response to this grwoing disaster. The majority of the poll respondents disapprove of Obama’s handling of the crisis. Using the oil crisis for political gain, the President renewed calls to embark on a future clean energy in USA. However, he did not make any pledges about specific legislation on energy. This left many environmentalists and Congressmen confused about the depth of Obama's resolve in pursuing clean energy legislation and funding.
In the mean time, he needs BP's CEO as a partner to stem the oil flow and to clean up afterward.