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President Obama Speaks About BP Oil Spill in Gulf

<Update at 6:05> The Atlanta Constitution expressed disappointment that President Obama "squandered" his "crisis moment." The president mentioned the moon-shot of another generation, but the Constitution said he failed to make one of his own.

A more evenhanded assessment came from The Washington Post, as it wondered whether the president had "turned a corner" with his speech. The New York Times said it was vague on content.

<Update at 5:50> For those of us looking for something drastically different or dramatic from President Obama in tonight's speech, there was little. He did stand strong in pushing for his energy bill, but gave no clue whether it would morph or not morph from being a climate bill. Energy tax or price on carbon? Not a word.  Here is his strongest statement after calling out for comprehensive energy legislation:

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. 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.

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.

<Update at 5:30> In a speech as short in length as it was broad in reach, President Obama vowed to take on BP and make the company compensate its many Gulf coast oil spill victims; restore the Gulf coast; set up regulatory assurances that this kind of spill will never happen again by making the government a watchdog of the oil industry; and put the country on course to a clean energy future. There are few details to pull from the speech and little that hasn't already been reported on the president's programs.

The president promised a full court press approach to recovery and restoration of the Gulf coast, but wants the public to be realistic -- it won't happen immediately.

He said he was meeting with the head of BP tomorrow to set aside a compensation fund to make sure BP does not allow the Gulf oil spill victims to unnecessarily suffer short term or long term. He will insist on a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes on beyond tonight or tomorrow.

He vows a program to make sure this kind of spill will never happen again, and said, "We need to know the facts before we allow deep water drilling to begin" again.

The president referred to the Minerals Management Agency, which was supposed to oversee the drilling industry, but as we have seen with the BP oil spill, was virtually run by BP and other oil companies instead. He mentioned that Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar had been working to reform the agency, but admitted the pace of reform was too slow. He referenced how his new MMS chief, just announced today, had been given orders to re-make the MMS into a true watchdog.of the industry.

Re-stating what he has recently said, the president noted that "drilling for for oil these days entails greater risk. We have less than 2 percent of oil reserves yet we consume 25 percent of the world's reserves. For decades we talked and talked about America's addiction to oil... Time and again the path forward has been blocked....by a lack of political courage and candor."

He said he was pushing for a new approach to energy. "This not some distant vision for the future." He called on citizens to join in the new, green march to the future.  "Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us...only if we rally together and act as one nation...the public and the private sectors."

"The one approach I will not accept is inaction," he said."What has defined us as a nation...is our capacity to shape our destiny...a faith in the future that sustains us as a people."

"If we summon the courage to reach for it..."

4 p.m. PT (one hour before speech begins):

Today – after his own panel announced that oil is gushing into the Gulf at a shocking 2.5 million gallons a day   – President Obama was preparing to tell the nation it's time to impose stronger limits on BP, tighten regulatory control of the oil industry and pass legislation that puts America on course to a clean energy future.

What isn't certain, an hour before the president's speech from the Oval Office, is whether the president will insist that global warming be addressed in that legislation through some sort of cap-and-trade system. This is one of the most contentious aspects of legislation passed through the House to the Senate, where it has languished for months. The Gulf oil spill has focused so much attention on energy issues that some version of the legislation is now likely to be pushed forward. Here is Reuters'analysis/prediction on what the president will ask:

-- Removing a $75 million cap on what individual companies have to pay in the aftermath of an oil well leak or other disaster

-- Imposing tougher rules on the way new offshore oil drilling sites are leased by Big Oil and more stringent safety standards for both the planning and implementation stages

-- Reforming government agency oversight after years of its cozy relationship with industry. Obama already has announced he is revamping the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service. But Congress might decide to legislate some additional changes. One idea -- to create a totally new, independent agency -- has some significant opposition in the Senate

-- Requiring electric power utilities to use more alternative power sources, including wind and solar energy, so that there is less reliance on dirty coal-burning plants that contribute to global warming. Government aid for building more nuclear power plants too

-- Encouraging the development of more fuel-efficient cars and thus reducing U.S. reliance on foreign oil

-- Possibly imposing a new "cap and trade" pollution permit system on utilities to further encourage the use of cleaner-burning fuels.

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