Opinion Brief

Should Obama take over the BP oil spill?

As the White House takes the heat for the Gulf disaster, it's facing growing pressure to push BP aside — but could that only worsen the situation?

As up to 95,000 barrels a day of BP oil gush unchecked into the Gulf, the chorus of "who's in charge?" is growing louder, putting the Obama administration on the defensive. Federal officials acknowledge that they have the authority to push BP out of the way and take charge of the unprecedented effort to cap the mile-deep oil well and clean up the unknown quantities of sweet crude polluting the Gulf. But is that a good idea? (Watch Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen stand behind BP)

By law, Obama has to take charge: The White House would love this to be BP's problem, says Andrew Revkin in The New York Times, but under the post–Exxon Valdez Oil Pollution Act, "Obama not only has the authority, but the obligation — however politically risky that might be — to take ownership" of the disaster. If BP's "Top kill" strategy fails this week, he needs to deploy an all-star "oil-well SWAT team," stat."If 'top kill' fails, Obama must take reins"

What else can the government do? Yes, "legally, President Obama can effectively fire BP," says Tom Cohen at CNN. But practically speaking, the federal government doesn't have the technology or expertise to stop the oil gush. BP, on the other hand, is the industry leader in this kind of operation. Like it or not, we need them to stop up the oil well."Government has authority to lead spill response, but may lack know-how"

Obama could start by knocking heads: BP is watching out for its own interests, not ours, says Peter Daou in The Huffington Post. That's why we desperately need leadership from Obama, but also "authentic anger" and an "alarm, intensity, and focus" worthy of "the greatest oil spill in history." This is much worse that "Katrina II," and it demands  "more than a big yawn.""The Great Shame: America's pathetic response to the Gulf catastrophe"

It just may not matter who's in charge: Anger won't cap the oil well, says Douglas McIntyre in 24/7 Wall Street, but it's not clear anything else will, either. "As hard has it may be to admit, the leak may be beyond the ability of technology to cure, and only the eventual exhaustion of the pressure from under the ocean’s floor will stop the spill.""BP 'doesn't know what it's doing'"

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SEE THE WEEK'S RELATED COVERAGE"How to speak BP: A Glossary"

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