No good solutions to U.S. Gulf oil spill yet, new method considered

13:51, May 05, 2010      

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British Petroleum (BP) executives admitted on Tuesday that good solutions are still being sought to tackle the Gulf of Mexico oil spill while U.S. officials are weighing a new method to clean up the mess with dispersant chemicals injected underwater.


The original estimate was that the leak, caused by an explosion of a BP oil rig in the Gulf on April 20, was gushing oil at a rate of 5,000 barrels a day. But if things go badly, BP executives told U.S. lawmakers in a closed-door meeting here in Washington Tuesday, the figure could grow to 60,000 barrels a day, or 2.5 million gallons.

If the leak continues at that rate for four days, it will exceed the amount of oil spilled by tanker Exxon Valdez when it ran aground in Alaska on March 24, 1989, the worst oil spill incident in U.S. history.

The U.S. government is holding BP accountable for the massive spill and pressing it to clean up the mess and make due compensations for economic and environmental damages caused by the incident.

White House officials said Tuesday that they supported raising the cap on oil company spill liability to 10 billion U.S dollars as part of a comprehensive energy bill.

"BP is responsible for -- and will be held accountable for -- all of the very significant cleanup and containment costs. They will pay for the mess they've made," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said.

"The bottom line is that the administration will aggressively pursue compensation from BP for any damages from this spill," he added.

But U.S. lawmakers appeared to be unimpressed and unsatisfied when leaving the meeting with BP executives. They later told U.S. press that the company is "attempting to solve a problem which they have never had to solve before at this depth. What we heard was worst-case scenario, with no good solutions."

The dim prospect came on a day when calm winds and wave allowed more boats to attack the spill and slowed the progress of the plume, which extends in a ragged pattern from the coast of Louisiana to offshore Pensacola, Fla.

The entire U.S. Gulf Coast is making preparations for the spill's landfall.

Coast Guard officers in Louisiana said the best scenario was that the slick remained at least 32 km off the coast and the oil would not come ashore for three more days. But others doubted that optimism and some witnesses said a band of oil has already been circling the Chandeleur Island about only 40 meters from the Louisiana beach.

Dan Turner, spokesman for Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, said the state is "facing a hovering menace out there that keeps changing shape and size by the hour".

The rippling effect of the oil spill tragedy even reached Carlifornia which is located hundreds of kilometers away.

It has prompted governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to call off a plan to expand oil drilling off the Santa Barbara coast which could bring in 100 million dollars in revenues annually.

"If I have a choice between 100 million dollars and what I see in the Gulf of Mexico, I'd rather just figure how to make up for that 100 million dollars," the governor said on Monday.

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