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Cap Is Collecting Oil, but Result of Effort Is Still Unclear

June 4, 2010 by Post Team 

Cap Is Collecting Oil, but Result of Effort Is Still Unclear:NEW ORLEANS –The cap that has been placed over the leaking oil  well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico has begun to collect some of the oil, officials said Friday, but it was not yet clear whether the latest attempt to contain the spill would succeed.

Adm. Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, who is commanding the federal response to the disaster, said some oil had been collected in the cap and was beginning to funnel up to the surface. But he noted that a great deal of oil was still escaping, by design, through vents in the cap that were intended to let oil out in order to keep cold Gulf water from rushing in and forming icy hydrates that could block the flow of oil to the surface.

So it will not be clear if the cap is sealed tightly enough to prevent large amounts of oil from continuing to pour into the Gulf until those vents are closed, Admiral Allen said. He said that current plans call for closing those vents on Friday.

“Progress is being made,” he said during a morning telephone briefing with reporters. But, given the up and down nature of past efforts to contain the disaster, he hastened to add, “I think we have to caution against over-optimism here.”

He said a rough estimate of the current collection would be about 1,000 gallons a day. The spill is sending an estimated 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day into gulf waters.

The news came as President Obama prepared to make his third trip to the Gulf Friday to assess the situation and meet with officials responding to the crisis. Mr. Obama canceled his trip to Australia, Indonesia and Guam late Thursday night.

While the White House statement offered no reason for scratching the Asia trip this time, officials in recent days had grown increasingly convinced that it was untenable for the president to leave the country for a week with the oil spill still unchecked.

Mr. Obama telephoned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia to tell them he could not come after all, the White House said in a statement issued at midnight.

“President Obama expressed his deep regret that he has to postpone his trip to Asia that was scheduled for later this month,” the statement said. “The president looked forward to rescheduling so that he can visit both countries soon.”

Mr. Obama has called the spill his “highest priority” and the White House understands it will absorb a considerable portion of the president’s time this summer. The failure to stop the leak after more than six weeks has fed concern about the administration’s powerlessness in the face of this crisis, and the White House has been determined to show that it is fully engaged.

BP chief executive Tony Hayward told investors Friday that “the financial consequences of this incident will undoubtedly be severe” but that BP’s current finances give it “significant flexibility in dealing with the costs of this incident.” He declined to estimate the costs of the efforts to stop the leak and clean up the spill.

In his first address to BP investors since the April accident, Mr. Hayward apologized for the damage the company caused to American citizens, the area, its employees, investors and other stakeholders.

“Everyone at BP is heartbroken by this event, by the loss of life and by the damage to the environment and to the livelihoods of the people of the Gulf Coast,” Mr. Hayward said on a call with investors. “It should not have happened and we are bound and determined to learn every lesson to try and ensure it never happens again.”

BP plans to set up a separate organization to manage the response once the spill is over and allow some BP employees to focus exclusively on the situation in the Gulf rather than being sidetracked to run the daily operation of the firm, Mr. Hayward said. The stand-alone unit will be led by Robert Dudley, the former chief executive of BP’s Russian venture.

Mr. Obama’s decision to cancel his Asia trip underscored the way the oil spill is forcing the White House to recalibrate plans for this summer. BP and the government have given up trying to plug the leak and are focusing now on siphoning or containing it until relief wells can be completed, perhaps by August. As a result, the president faces another two months in crisis management before he can even turn his focus exclusively to cleanup and recovery.

White House officials said they will not let the focus on the oil spill detract from the rest of the president’s economic, legislative and foreign agenda, pointing out that he still seems likely to sign financial regulation reform by next month, push through his Supreme Court nominee and win sanctions against Iran at the United Nations Security Council.

“The American people don’t elect somebody, I think, that they don’t believe can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, told reporters earlier Thursday. “Sometimes it feels like we walk and chew gum and juggle on a unicycle all at the same time. I get that.”

But, he added, “there’s a whole lot of people working on a whole lot of things in the White House, and we’re able to do more than several things at once.”

To get through the crisis without letting it detract from the rest of the president’s agenda, the White House plans to try to wall off those dealing with the spill from the rest of Mr. Obama’s team, particularly John Brennan, the homeland security adviser, and Carol Browner, the energy and climate adviser. The White House is counting on a strong jobs report on Friday to reassure Americans that its programs are bolstering the economy.

Source : New York Times

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