Gulf Oil Spill: As Damage Speads, U.K. Upset By Presidential Pressure on BP

Meanwhile, Obama on domestic oil criticism: "I can't suck it up with a straw."

June 11, 2010, 6:30 PM

June 11, 2010— -- On day 53 of the BP oil spill, the frustration continues to spread along with the size of the spill.

A federal panel probing the rate of the oil flow has revealed that the size of the spill is far bigger than previous estimates. While the earlier worst-case scenario pegged the spill at 42 million gallons, the new numbers mean that up to 89 million gallons could have spewed into the ocean already, eight times the size of the Exxon-Valdez disaster.

Today, Adm. Thad Allen, the man in charge of the federal response, acknowledged that the estimates could grow even larger as scientists analyze HD video of the leak.

"I'm not prepared to say anything is the right estimate until we get empirical evidence about flow through a pipe or pressure readings so we know exactly what it is. Everything before that is conjecture," Allen said.

On shore, the National Guard and other workers continue to fight that oil, dropping sandbags and rolling out boom. But it's a battle that the oil may have already won.

"You're going to see the effects from the Deepwater Horizon spill for at least a decade, probably more," said Rick Steiner, a scientist who tracked the effects of the Exxon-Valdez spill.

Despite containment efforts, oil is now sloshing onto shore and into the inland waterways as far away as Florida.

In newly-released video of President Obama's visit to the Gulf Coast last week, the president himself admitted the limitations he faces.

"I can't dive down there and plug the hole. I can't suck it up with a straw. All I can do is make sure that I put honest, hardworking, smart people in place," Obama said. "I will do everything in my power to do right by you guys and everybody along the coast."

Still, all the bad news has knocked the wind out of Gulf Coast residents. And now it's reverberating thousands of miles away in Great Britain.

President Obama's harsh words for BP, the largest company in Great Britain and the fourth-largest in the world, have provoked one of the most tense times between America and the U.K. since the American Revolution.

A trip to a London newsstand today told the tale through headlines:

"Obama is Killing All Our Pensions: His Rants Against BP Are a Disgrace," read one.

"Back Off, Obama: President's Anti-British Rap Attacked," said another.

It isn't just the British tabloids that are upset by the Obama administration's tough talk against BP. Many political leaders across the pond also are crying foul.

"What I don't think is a good idea is to get into a kind of transatlantic name-calling and buck-passing and all the rest of it," said London Mayor Boris Johnson.

British Worried About BP's Name?

The concern over BP's situation goes to some of the highest levels of the British government.

"I don't think anyone believes it will help deal with the problem at hand if we allow this to escalate into a major diplomatic incident," said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Britain's leaders have their knickers in a twist for a variety of reasons, including a suspicion that some in the American government, including Obama, are knowingly using the oil company's old name, "British Petroleum," instead of the newer one, "BP," which the company adopted in 2001.

A review of tapes of government officials talking about the spill does reveal multiple references to "British Petroleum," but some deny that there's some sort of conspiracy.

"I guess they changed their name recently," Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged. "Some of us are used to the old name. And when we use it, they say, 'Oh, that's being xenophobic.' ... I don't see it that way."

British newspapers have reported that President Obama repeatedly uses the outdated "British Petroleum" name, though it does not appear that he has ever done so publicly.

But U.K. officials are also concerned about the tough talk surrounding the incident, like President Obama's recent comment that he has "ass to kick."

White House officials say they don't see any evidence of anti-British sentiment, but the president's comments have been blamed in part for BP's plummeting stock price.

"Millions of British people own shares in BP, and the fortunes of BP directly affect the fortunes of millions of Britons," said Nile Gardiner with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Britons are all the more troubled when American politicians suggest that BP shouldn't pay out stock dividends until the clean-up and claims in the U.S. are settled, keeping pounds out of British pockets. BP's directors are reportedly considering such a move.

"Very strong attacks upon BP are viewed by many people in Britain as an attack upon Great Britain itself," said Gardiner.

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