WASHINGTON: Barack Obama was to come face-to-face with BP executives for the first time just hours after describing their company’s actions in the Gulf of Mexico as ”reckless”.At the core of their discussions was to be a multibillion-dollar compensation fund proposed by the White House to finance the clean-up of the Gulf coast along with restoration of the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen and small-business owners.BP is said to have bridled at the size of its expected contribution to the fund and at Mr Obama’s insistence it be managed by an independent trustee.But BP’s chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, and its chief executive, Tony Hayward, were likely to get short shrift from the President at their meeting, scheduled to start yesterday.The President told Americans in a prime-time television address on Tuesday he would not rest until BP paid for the damage to lives, businesses and shorelines. He warned, however, that it would takes years to set things right.”But make no mistake: we will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.”Invited by the media to ”get angry” during the eight-week crisis, and chided by political opponents as having been slow to grasp the enormity of the brewing environmental and economic catastrophe, Mr Obama used the address to spruik his administration’s efforts so far.While it revealed little new, he also took the opportunity to call on Americans to end their addiction to fossil fuels and to help hasten the country’s transformation to renewable clean energy. Noting that the US, with just 2 per cent of the global population, consumed 20 per cent of the world’s oil, Mr Obama said: ”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.”Mr Obama’s 18-minute address was the first he has delivered from the Oval Office in his 17-month presidency, and the first such address to mention energy since Jimmy Carter’s pledge in 1979 to end America’s dependence on foreign oil.Though the speech is likely to have soothed some anxieties, the President was unable to tell Americans what they have been anxiously awaiting: exactly when the leak will be stopped.Mr Obama said he expected BP would be able to capture around 90 per cent of the oil flow ”’in the coming weeks and days”, before a relief well was completed some time in August.Earlier, the government increased for the fifth time its estimate of the oil flow to as much as 60,000 barrels a day.In the early stages of the leak, in late April, BP suggested oil was gushing at just 1000 barrels a day.A statement issued by BP said: ”We share the President’s goal of shutting off the well as quickly as possible. We look forward to meeting with President Obama for a constructive discussion.”Some members of Congress have insisted that BP should inject $US20 billion ($23 billion) into a compensation fund.A BP America executive, Lamar McKay, told a House of Representatives committee hearing on Tuesday the issue remained unresolved.”We’re going to pay all legitimate claims [but] a decision on whether to do a trust fund or account hasn’t been made yet.”Mr Obama said he would tell BP’s chairman he must set aside ”whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness … This fund will not be controlled by BP.”
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