President Barack Obama has told the American people the energy company BP will be required to pay for all the damage caused by its giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the president's first nationally-televised address from the Oval Office since he took office 17 months ago.
Eight weeks after BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers and sending oil spewing into the Gulf, President Obama said the U.S. government will hold the company responsible.
"But make no mistake: We will fight this spill with everything we have got for as long as it takes," said President Obama. "We will make BP 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."
Mr. Obama said when he meets with BP officials on Wednesday, he will demand that they establish a fund, administered by an independent third party, to benefit the spill's victims.
"Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness," he said.
Immediately after the president spoke, BP released a statement saying it shared his goal of cleaning up the oil and helping those affected by the disaster.
Mr. Obama returned to Washington Tuesday, after inspecting the damage during a two-day visit to the Gulf region.
He spoke hours after the government raised its estimate of the amount of oil gushing out of the ruptured well. A government panel of scientists now believes that between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels of oil are entering the Gulf each day, up from the previous estimate of 40,000.
Mr. Obama called for a long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan, to help the region recover from years of environmental disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
The president is also setting up a national commission to understand the causes of the BP disaster, and offer recommendations on new safety and environmental standards.
"A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe, that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken," said President Obama. "That was obviously not the case on the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why."
In addition, Mr. Obama announced his choice to lead the government agency that oversees oil and gas development, which has been accused of lax oversight of the industry. He picked a former federal prosecutor, Michael Bromwich.
"His charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry's watchdog, not its partner," said Mr. Obama.
The agency's previous director stepped down last month. The administration plans to break the agency into three separate offices.
Mr. Obama also made an appeal for the U.S. to end its dependence on foreign oil and build up its so-called clean energy industry.
Shortly before the president's speech, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, Minority Leader John Boehner, called the Obama administration's response to the oil leak inadequate and disorganized.
A new Associated Press public opinion poll shows that 52 percent of Americans do not approve of the president's handling of the oil disaster-a higher number than in May.