WRAPUP 7-Obama slams oil companies for spill blame game

* Obama decries “ridiculous” statements by executives

* BP could begin siphoning leak overnight

* Six-month drilling halt would affect 80,000 bpd

* BP shares fall further in London trade

(Adds quote from shrimp boat worker, congressional probe)

By Caren Bohan and Steve Gorman

WASHINGTON/PORT FOURCHON, La., May 14 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S.
President Barack Obama on Friday slammed the companies involved
in a massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill as BP Plc readied a
siphoning system to contain a growing environmental disaster.

Obama applied further pressure on the companies involved in
the unfolding drama, criticizing them for a “ridiculous
spectacle” of publicly trading blame over the accident in his
sternest comments yet on the situation. [ID:nN14176111]

With oil gushing unchecked from a blown-out well a mile
(1.6 km) under the Gulf of Mexico, London-based BP (BP.L: ) began
work on its latest short-term fix — a tube that undersea
robots will try to insert into a pipe to funnel oil to the
surface.

The device could begin siphoning oil late Friday, BP Chief
Operating Officer Doug Suttles said. The energy giant’s prior
attempt to contain the oil — a giant containment dome —
failed last week after the appearance of frozen hydrocarbons
rendered it useless.

The so-called riser insertion tool is “the best option, the
most likely option to combat” the frozen hydrocarbons, Suttles
said. If short-term efforts fail, it will take BP about 90 days
to permanently cap the leak with a relief well.

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TAKE A LOOK on the spill [ID:nSPILL]

INSIDER TV: http://link.reuters.com/rad93k

Graphic: http://link.reuters.com/teb93k

Breakingviews column [ID:nLDE64C1D1]

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Shares of companies involved in the disaster, including BP,
have taken a big hit in recent days, but now other firms that
make a living in the Gulf of Mexico’s oil-rich waters are
starting to feel financial pain. [ID:nN14152222]

The U.S. Department of the Interior issued a moratorium on
new drilling permits at least until May 28 when a safety review
is due to be completed. But now, analysts and investors are
beginning to fret future implications of the ban.

In comments after a meeting with his Cabinet to discuss
efforts to stop the spill and minimize its impact on U.S. Gulf
Coast communities, Obama said he was angry and frustrated about
the spill, which threatens an ecological and economic disaster
in the Gulf region.

“I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous
spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter.
You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling
over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else,”
Obama said.

Obama was referring to testimony this week in Congress by
leaders of the three companies involved in the disaster — BP,
Halliburton (HAL.N: ) and Transocean Ltd. (RIG.N: ). None of them
took responsibility for the spill, blaming each other instead.

BP MUST PAY

Fisheries and tourism, two of the Gulf Coast’s economic
mainstays, along with birds, sea turtles and other wildlife,
are threatened by the spreading slick.

As National Guard crews pressed on with efforts across
southern Louisiana to fill in shoreline breaches to keep oil
out of the state’s vital marsh system, idled shrimpers
continued to look for alternative employment.

“I’m going to try to get a job with my cousin part time,”
said Michael Gros, 51, a shrimp boat owner and captain.

The accident also could cripple attempts in Washington to
overhaul U.S. energy policy.

Obama repeated a demand that BP must pay for the spill’s
cleanup and other economic impact on the Gulf region but said
the U.S. government would use “every available resource” to
stop oil from coming ashore. He said he would not “rest or be
satisfied” until the leak was stopped at its source.

“We absolutely understand and share President Obama’s sense
of urgency over the length of time this complex task is
taking,” BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward said in a statement.

The spill began after an April 20 explosion on the
Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 workers. It threatens to
eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska to become the
worst ecological disaster in U.S. history.

The tone of Obama’s Rose Garden comments were his sternest
yet on the catastrophe.

In the aftermath of the spill, the Obama administration was
faulted by some for the speed of its response, with some
drawing comparisons to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The White House rejects the criticism, and Obama’s visit to
Louisiana on May 2 to meet with local officials and residents
helped to dampen it.

But as the leak begins to move ashore, the administration
wants to head off any potential political fallout, especially
with congressional elections looming in November.

Obama also said he directed U.S. Interior Secretary Ken
Salazar to undertake a “top-to-bottom” review of the Minerals
Management Service, the federal agency that oversees offshore
drilling. On Tuesday, Salazar announced that the agency will be
split in order to separate the collection of oil royalties from
safety inspection duties.

“For too long, for a decade or more, there’s been a cozy
relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency
that permits them to drill,” Obama said.

A U.S. House of Representatives panel on Friday launched an
investigation into possible oversight failures by the federal
regulator of offshore drilling. [ID:nN14218786]

A six-month halt in new drilling would defer as much as
80,000 barrels (3.4 million gallons/15.9 million liters) of oil
equivalent per day, or 4 percent of projected production in the
Gulf of Mexico in 2011, according to energy consultancy Wood
Mackenzie.

“Longer term, after the moratorium is eventually lifted the
cost implications of this accident on future drilling could
prove significantly detrimental for the industry,” research
firm Raymond James said in a note to clients on Friday.

A U.S. lawmaker on Friday urged BP to provide more
information about how much oil is gushing from its ruptured
well, noting that estimates range from 5,000 barrels per day
(210,000 gallons/795,000 liters) to 100,000 barrels (4.2
million gallons/15.9 million liters) per day.

Democratic Representative Edward Markey said the public
deserves to know exactly how much oil will end up in the ocean
and ultimately on U.S. coastlines. [ID:nN14155709]

BP, whose shares have tumbled and wiped out $30 billion of
market value since the April 20 rig fire, has said the oil
spill had cost it $450 million so far. BP shares dropped more
than 3 percent in London on Friday.

BP defended its lower spill estimate of 5,000 bpd.

“I think that’s a good range,” Suttles said on CNN. “I
don’t know the precise number, but I think it’s somewhere
around that number.”

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WRAPUP 7-Obama slams oil companies for spill blame game