Twelve days after the explosion on board the BP oil rig that has led to a massive oil slick, President Obama finally managed to find the time for a brief visit to the region suffering through this disaster. The unprecedented environmental tragedy, which will also inflict an enormous economic impact on the state of Louisiana, is spreading rapidly along the entire gulf coast. After being briefed by officials who had been previously working to mitigate the effects of the spill, Mr. Obama returned to Washington aboard Air Force One to attend the White House Correspondents dinner.
Some experts have questioned why plans in place since 1994 for burning off the oil have not yet been implemented. Apparently, there have been repeated delays in both obtaining and deploying the necessary equipment identified in the 16-year old plan. The plan called for the deployment of fire oil booms such as those manufactured by Elastec/American Marine to burn off a large majority of the oil before it threatened fragile wetlands. Jeff Bohleber, CFO of Elastec/American Marine, stated that "If they had six or seven of these systems in place when this happened and got out there and started burning, it would have significantly lessened the amount of oil that got loose."
US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry had previously stated shortly after the accident that they had all the necessary equipment to contain the spill. They did not, however, have any of the fire oil booms and Elastec/American Marine has since shipped the only one that they had in stock. As of yet, there has been no explanation for this apparent contradiction.
After making vague promises and not addressing the issue of the slow and inadequate response, President Obama left quickly to ensure he was able to be present for the annual White House Correspondents dinner. Many reporters thought that his remarks were more humorous than those of the host, Jay Leno. Mr. Obama has also recently traveled to Michigan to give the commencement address for the University of Michigan.
Officials hope that the oil burn can take place shortly, but equipment shortages have plagued the delayed relief effort from the start. Many wonder if it may be too late and speculate that a full recovery may take decades.