WASHINGTON (CN) – The BP oil spill devastating the Gulf Coast “is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now,” President Obama said in his first Oval Office address Tuesday night. “The consequences of our actions are now in plain sight,” he said, describing the Gulf as threatened by a “menacing cloud of black crude.”
“We cannot consign our children to this future,” he said.
Obama characterized the Gulf disaster — the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history — as a “battle we’re waging,” and promised to fight the spill “with everything we’ve got.”
But he said that no matter how effective the response, the country would be fighting oil “for months or even years.” He said the spill demonstrated the need for a paradigm shift in the country’s approach to energy.
“We consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves,” Obama said. “And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean — because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.”
Obama said the days of cheap, easy access to oil “were numbered” and compared the United States to China, which is trumping U.S. investment in clean energy.
Addressing critics who say the transition to clean energy is too expensive, Obama said “the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.” He said the United States spends $1 billion a day on foreign oil.
While Obama said he would entertain a variety of approaches to making the shift to clean energy, “the one approach I will not accept is inaction.”