President Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to meet the challenge of the worst environmental disaster in United States history:
"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. But make no mistake. We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long as it takes. We will make BP [British Petroleum] pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever is necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy."
The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig off the U.S. coast on April 20 killed eleven workers and injured 17 others. Huge quantities of oil began to gush into the Gulf of Mexico threatening marine life, human health, and the economy of the Gulf Coast states. President Obama said the United States Government has been working from day one to deal with the crisis:
"We now have nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across four states to contain and clean up the oil. Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf. And I've authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast. . . . 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've approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try to stop the oil before it reaches the shore, and we're working with Alabama, Mississippi and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines."
At the same time, said President Obama, the U.S. government is working on recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast areas damaged by the spill. Equally important are steps the U.S. government is taking to ensure that such a disaster does not occur again. President Obama has established a National Commission to understand the causes of the spill and recommend measures that will prevent another such tragedy. These include better regulation, safety standards and enforcement when it comes to off-shore drilling.
One lesson, said President Obama, is clear: the United States must make the transition from costly, environmentally harmful fossil fuels to clean, sustainable energy. "We cannot afford not to change how we produce and use energy," he said, "because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security and our environment are far greater."