Things could get testy, but they probably won't. President Obama will phone British Prime Minister David Cameron, Saturday, to talk about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that is drowning the White House in troubles. US officials say the call will come shortly before the U.S. plays England in the opening round of the World Soccer cup in South Africa. It will be just the second time the two leaders have spoken together. The first was last month, when Mr. Obama called to congratulate the new British leader and to say the 'special relationship' between the US and Britain would not change. What a difference a month makes.
Since then we've learned the BP oil spill is much worse than was thought. Admiral Thad Allen, the man in charge of cleaning it up, concedes a new scientists' estimate of more than 40 thousand barrels a day leaking from the well could be right. And Allen says it may be mid July before the proper equipment is in place to capture that much oil. A new containment mechanism is being built and rigs are being brought in from the North Sea.
Meanwhile, British politicians have lashed out at the President and his advisors for the tough stance they're taking against BP. The company is a favorite of British pension funds and its stock has lost 40% of its value since the spill. Parliamentarians say that makes it a national issue. British officials blame, in part, 'name calling' from American politicians and the Obama administration's insistence that BP will be held responsible for all the economic costs of the spill, including the lost wages of workers who were idled by the President's moratorium on deepwater drilling. The moratorium is controversial even in this country and British officials may complain that nothing in current US law makes the company responsible for its cost.
Still, State Department officials say the oil spill remains a dispute between the US and a company, not the US and Britain. And to keep the Obama - Cameron conversation light, officials suggest the President may make the Prime Minister a friendly wager on the soccer match.
Much tougher words are likely next week, when the President and his aides meet with the chairman of BP's board of directors, Carl-Henric Svanberg. Admiral Allen asked Svanberg to bring along 'any appropriate officials' and he says that includes CEO Tony Hayward, the much hated face of the spill in this country.
In his 'summons' Allen says BP is responsible for 'all costs associated with the response to the spill,' including efforts to stop the leak, cleanup the oil, protect the shoreline and mitigate the damages. 'As well' he adds 'as support long term recovery efforts to ensure that all individuals and communities impacted by the spill are made whole.'
There will be no friendly wagers at that meeting.