TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: The president’s speech tonight ran about 18 minutes — not long as these kinds of things go. But he did pack a good amount into it. Our Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale covered the speech for us. Hello John.
John Dimsdale: Hello Kai.
Ryssdal: So how did he do? What did he say?
Dimsdale: Well, he tried to seize the initiative, to show that he’s got a handle on what needs to be done and is doing it. He called it a battle plan. He announced new resources for states along the Gulf, including access to the National Guard. But you know, a big part of taking command is getting tough with BP. And he talked about how he’s going to meet with company executives tomorrow, even though that’s only for the first time since the April 20th explosion of the drilling rig. But at that meeting, he said he’ll require BP to set aside a multi-billion dollar escrow fund to pay restitution to the hard-hit business people in the Gulf.
President Barack Obama: 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.
Ryssdal: What about some of the criticism he’s gotten, John, for that deepwater drilling moratorium he announced not too long ago? It’s put people out of work and it’s not all that popular.
Dimsdale: Yeah, he acknowledged the worry that this is just adding insult to injury. It’s putting even more Gulf residents out of a job and harming a vital industry.
President Obama: I know this creates difficulty for the people working on these rigs. But for the sake of their safety — and for the sake of the entire region — we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue.
Ryssdal: Two news items broke just before the president went on the air, John. The first, that estimates of the flow out of that thing are up to now as much as 2.5 million gallons a day — that’s quite a boost. But also a new regulator for the Minerals Management Service — the one that does the contracts and the regulation of the oil drillers.
Dimsdale: That’s right. His name is Michael Bromwich. He’s a former U.S. attorney and a former Department of Justice Inspector General. His task is going to be to take the recommendations from the national commission that’s investigating the causes of the leak and try to put some distance between the regulators and the regulated.
Ryssdal: What about the one thing that might actually help this from happening again? The president talked about that — turning this nation to a cleaner energy strategy.
Dimsdale: Yeah. There definitely will be some new drilling regulations and probably higher liability limits on the industry as a result of this spill. But connecting the dots to a more comprehensive energy strategy that’s going to get enough support in Congress — if anything it’s become more of a problem. There had been that growing common ground on reducing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels while at the same time stepping up production of domestic oil and coal and nuclear power to attract enough votes to get it through Congress. But that coalition is no longer possible because of the growing opposition to drilling after this spill.
Ryssdal: Mmhm. Politics and the oil spill. Also, tomorrow’s a big day in Washington, John, right? The CEO of BP is going to be talking to the president.
Dimsdale: That’s right. The CEO and the chairman of the board, and they’ll talk about that escrow fund.
Ryssdal: John Dimsdale in Washington covering the president’s speech tonight for us. Thank you, John.
Dimsdale: Thank you.
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