BP'S containment cap is capturing an increasing amount of oil spewing from a ruptured Gulf of Mexico well, but the US admiral leading the government relief effort said yesterday the coast will be under siege from the massive spill for many more months. BP said its latest effort had captured 10,500 barrels of oil (439,950 gallons/1.67 million litres) in 24 hours and a second containment system should enable it to soon control the vast majority of oil spewing from the leak about 1 mile (1.6 km) below the water's surface. The progress came as the company's Chief Executive Tony Hayward said he has no plans to quit over his handling of the environmental disaster marked by a string of failures since the April 20 rig explosion that triggered the oil spill. Thad Allen, the Coast Guard admiral heading up the federal relief effort, estimated the maximum collection from the containment device at about 15,000 barrels a day. Estimates put the well's leak at 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day.
Despite the progress, Allen told CBS's "Face the Nation" program: "This will only end when we intercept the wellbore, pump mud down it to overcome the pressure of the oil coming up from the reservoir and put a cement plug in ..." "This will be well into the fall," he said. "This is a siege across the entire Gulf. This spill is holding everybody hostage, not only economically but physically, and it has to be attacked on all fronts." For many in Florida, the man-made environmental disaster is just the latest in a series of disastrous events to befall panhandle residents, from hurricanes to the housing bust. "(Hurricane) Ivan took my roof off, the housing market took my business and my house and now this is hampering my comeback," said Bill Paul, who has scrapped plans to open a restaurant and was protesting at a BP station in Pensacola.
Pressure has mounted on London-based BP to stop the leak from the ruined seabed well and bear the cost of the cleanup and damage caused to coastal fisheries, wildlife and tourism. Hayward became a lightning rod for Americans' anger with BP when he told struggling Gulf Coast residents last month, "I would like my life back," a remark widely seen as insensitive. "It hasn't crossed my mind," Hayward when asked by The Sunday Telegraph if he might resign because of the spill. "It's clearly crossed other people's minds but not mine." Hayward told the BBC he had the full support of BP's board and the company's balance sheet was strong, despite the plunge in the company's market value as a result of the disaster. "BP is ... generating a lot of cash. It will generate US$30 to US$35 billion of free cash flow this year ... We have the financial strength to see through this," he told the BBC. "We have a further containment system to implement in the course of this coming week which will be in place by next weekend," Hayward told the BBC. "When these two are in place we ... hope to be containing the vast majority of the oil."
The Obama administration has delayed plans to increase offshore drilling as a result of the spill. The crisis has put President Barack Obama on the defensive and distracted his team from their domestic agenda -- a new energy policy, reform of Wall Street and bolstering a struggling American economy. The focus on America's biggest environmental disaster comes ahead of November's congressional elections in which the Democrats are expected to struggle to keep their majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate. Obama wants to tap into public anger over images of polluted beaches and fishing grounds to press for faster development of alternative energy such as solar and wind power, which was already on his agenda. On Sunday, Senator John Kerry said lawmakers and Obama should now push that policy forward.