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Obama arrives in Louisiana for oil spill update

 In this May 26, 2010 photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, crews conduct controlled burns near the Deepwater Horizon/BP incident site. The burns ar...
 A sign protesting the oil spill and BP is shown in Grand Isle, La., Thursday, May 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
 President Barack Obama looks through the door before the start of a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday May 2...
 President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha walk off Air Force One after arriving at Chicago O'Hare International Airport in...
 Air Force personnel walk off the tarmac as Air Force One with President Barack Obama and his family aboard, prepares to take-off from Andrews Air For...
 President Barack Obama, first lady  Michelle Obama, along with daughters Malia, front, and Sasha walk off Air Force One after arriving at Chicago O'H...
 This image made from video released by British Petroleum (BP PLC) early Friday morning, May 28, 2010 shows drilling mud escaping from the broken pipe...

Gulf Oil Spill

In this May 26, 2010 photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, crews conduct controlled burns near the Deepwater Horizon/BP incident site. The burns ar...

Gulf Oil Spill

A sign protesting the oil spill and BP is shown in Grand Isle, La., Thursday, May 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

APTOPIX Obama

President Barack Obama looks through the door before the start of a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday May 2...

Obama

President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha walk off Air Force One after arriving at Chicago O'Hare International Airport in...

Obama

Air Force personnel walk off the tarmac as Air Force One with President Barack Obama and his family aboard, prepares to take-off from Andrews Air For...

Obama

President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, along with daughters Malia, front, and Sasha walk off Air Force One after arriving at Chicago O'H...

Gulf Oil Spill Video

This image made from video released by British Petroleum (BP PLC) early Friday morning, May 28, 2010 shows drilling mud escaping from the broken pipe...

Intent on showing firm command of the deepening crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama flew to coastal Louisiana Friday for his second in-person update on the country's most devastating oil spill.
Criticism of Obama is rising as crude continues to gush out of the leak 39 days after the oil rig exploded and sank. Amid fears the tragedy crippling the Gulf region's wildlife and economy could soon also engulf his presidency, Obama has launched a campaign to step up public engagement and directly confront the public's anger.
A day earlier, he held a rare White House news conference to address the matter, saying "I take responsibility" for handling what is now considered the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.
On Friday morning, BP PLC CEO Tony Hayward said it would be about 48 hours before it can be known if pumping heavy mud into the blown-out well is successful in stopping the spill. Hayward said on CBS television's "Early Show" that his confidence level in the well-plugging effort remains at 60 to 70 percent.
BP, the largest oil and gas producer in the United States, began injecting mud into the well on Wednesday in an untested effort to end a spill that has surpassed the Exxon Valdez disaster since it started after an oil rig explosion April 20 that killed 11 workers.
The Obama administration's point man on the disaster, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said BP's work Friday will tell if a cap can hold.
Allen told ABC's "Good Morning America" that the mud pumped into the well has pushed the oil down, but the challenge is going to be to keep enough pressure on the oil flow to put a cement plug in place.
"The real question is, can we sustain it, and that'll be the critical issue going through the next 12 to 18 hours," Allen said.
On Friday, Obama interrupted a Memorial Day weekend stay with his family at their Chicago home for the Gulf visit, with his first stop a beach south of New Orleans where protective booms have been set up to keep oil from washing ashore. The president was then traveling to the U.S. Coast Guard Station in nearby Grand Isle, Louisiana, to attend a briefing by Allen. Obama was being joined there by the governors of Louisiana, Florida and Alabama. He was spending about three hours in the region.
"I think he needs to see the folks working on the beach with the cleanup," Allen said Friday morning. "I think it's a real, real tough challenge, especially in the remote areas where you have marshlands involved and you can't always get there easily and the surveillance is difficult."
The oil rig leased by BP exploded April 20 and later sank, killing 11 people and releasing millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf. There is deep frustration along the coast, increasingly felt in the country at large as well, at the inability of BP and the government to stop the massive spillage of oil into the water.
BP PLC is using what is called a "top kill" procedure to try to stop the leak by pumping in heavy mud. If it doesn't work, something BP says will be known with a couple days, Obama's political problems will only compound.
On Thursday, Obama acknowledged his administration could have done a better job on several fronts. They included misjudging the industry's ability to handle a worst-case scenario, not moving sooner to end "cozy and sometimes corrupt" relations between the oil industry and government regulators, and not getting a better estimate on the amount of oil gushing from the broken well.
He spoke in sometimes personal terms about his ownership of the crisis.
"I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down," Obama said. "My job right now is just to make sure everybody in the Gulf understands: This is what I wake up to in the morning, and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about. The spill."
He also announced a series of new restrictions on oil drilling projects. And the first political casualty of the spill came Thursday when Elizabeth Birnbaum, the head of the Minerals Management Service that oversees offshore drilling, resigned under pressure.
Some of those suffering the effects of the oil that is soiling birds and darkening beaches along the coast had mixed feelings about whether Obama should even come.
"He'll have a better idea of what he needs to do or get other people to do," said Donald Lefort, 41, a convenience store clerk in Venice, La., which has become a staging area for efforts to fight the oil.
Larry Freman, 72, who was cleaning up around his vacation home on Grand Isle's main drag, which usually is packed with tourists this close to Memorial Day, said Obama should stay home.
"I think he's wasting his time coming here," the oil business veteran said.
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Associated Press writers Mary Foster and Kevin McGill along Louisiana's coast contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-03-05 03:46 GMT+08:00