Gulf oil spill: Will Obama regret his '90 percent' promise?
President Obama said in his Oval Office address that he wants "up to 90 percent" of the Gulf oil spill leak contained by the end of the month. He is putting his faith in an uncertain BP plan.
President Obama's declaration that he'd like to see "up to 90 percent" of the Gulf oil spill geyser contained in the next few weeks is a best-case scenario in a worst-case kind of disaster.Skip to next paragraph
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From the beginning, BP has failed to meet expectations either to kill the well or contain the oil flowing from it. The containment dome clogged. The "top kill" failed. The "junk shot" accomplished nothing. Even the relatively successful "top cap" operation is apparently still leaking as much as 42,000 barrels (1.8 million gallons) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico daily.
BP and its promises to stem the oil are firmly in "the boy who cried wolf" territory. Yet Mr. Obama, in one of the most important speeches of his presidency, pinned no small amount of his credibility in the crisis on a plan that BP itself is trying to downplay.
"The '90 percent' line reminds me about the promise that if the stimulus bill is passed, unemployment will peak at 8 percent," says Mr. Abramowitz. "He could've said, 'We'll be able to capture more of it,' but when you put out a number, then people are going to come back and say, 'How come this didn't happen?' From everything that's happened so far, I'd be surprised if they can actually achieve that."
On Wednesday, Obama won major concessions from BP, including a $20 billion escrow fund and a promise by the company to suspend stockholder dividend payments. But for the Gulf Coast – and much of America – the primary question remains: When is the oil going to stop?
"His promise of '90 percent containment' right around the corner was a huge risk to buy short-term traction," writes Rodger Jones, editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News, on the Dallas Morning Views blog.