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As one of the country’s worst environmental catastrophes unfolds on his watch, President Barack Obama is under increasing pressure from lawmakers and residents of the fouled Gulf coast to take over the oil disaster response.
The word at the White House is that Obama is frustrated at the delays BP has encountered in stopping the leak. “Plug the damn hole,” he has told senior government officials.
The most immediate concern is stopping the leak. The problem for the White House is that it has no real alternative except to rely on BP’s technology and expertise to do it.
That means Obama is forced into an uneasy alliance with BP — outraged that the leak took place but hopeful that the energy giant can stop it.
“Drill baby, drill” was an enduring rally cry from Republicans in the 2008 presidential election. This past March, President Obama unveiled plans for a limited expansion of offshore oil drilling, in part to try to win GOP support for climate change legislation.
Then an undersea oil well ruptured in the Gulf of Mexico.
The oil spill that is threatening the coast of Louisiana has provided ammunition to critics of Obama’s proposal, and the White House sought to make clear there would be no new drilling authorized until the cause of the spill had been reviewed.