Obama To BP: You Break It, You Buy It. To America: Let’s Seize Moment, Move Beyond Petroleum

The two top topics for debate following President Obama’s speech tonight on the BP oil spill are: (1) how to make BP accountable for their actions, and (2) how this spill influences U.S. energy policy. Comments on each below. Also worth noting a new statistic on BP leak rates. Last week, most estimates said 12-19k barrels per day were leaking. Tonight, Bloomberg’s Lizzie O’Leary said that estimate is now more like 60k barrels per day, which “is like an Exxon Valdez spill every 4-7 days.”

On BP accountability, there are a few speech excerpts below. The first is early in the speech and summarizes Obama’s you-break-it-you-buy-it plan for BP: they’ll pay for damage, and they’ll pay for the careers and businesses they’ve affected. The following excerpts explain each. Focusing on affected people and businesses makes practical and political sense. But the soon-to-be-raging debate between politicians and oil industry lawyers will be about how you make BP accountable without bankrupting them. And while this debate rages, those lawyers will be siphoning off available clean-up funds as fast as the clean-up rigs can siphon oil off the water.

…We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.

…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. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party.

…Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short-term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region.

…Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, a former governor of Mississippi, and a son of the Gulf, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other Gulf residents. And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.

On clean energy, the message was that we’ve already passed laws that enable us to move away from dependence on oil, and now we need to invest in a long-term move to clean energy. This part is excerpted below. But again, as even Obama notes himself, it all comes down to lawyers and lobbyists who get paid more than politicians to protect their near-term earnings. So we’ll see if Obama’s message can rise above the ominous black clouds, and if we can in fact seize this moment to begin moving beyond petroleum.

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked – not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

We cannot consign our children to this future. 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. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

…When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence. Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.

Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And some believe we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.