Coast Guard's Allen concedes precise estimates of severity of Gulf oil spill elusive

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration's point man for the Gulf Coast oil spill said Friday that it will be at least July before BP has the tankers in place to capture the latest estimates for crude flowing from the blown well.

Even if undersea efforts to direct the oil to the surface succeed, it will take weeks to get the proper equipment in place to hold it, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.

Allen gave reporters the update in Washington, a day after a government task force said the blown-out well may have been spewing as much as 2.1 million gallons of oil per day — or twice as much as the government's previous worst-case estimate.

He acknowledged that reliable numbers on the severity of the crisis are hard to get.

"I think we're still dealing with the flow estimate. We're still trying to refine those numbers," he said.

Of continuing questions surrounding the administration's coordination of response efforts with BP PLC, Allen noted a meeting he has invited top company officials to next week, one in which President Barack Obama is expected to participate, for at least a part of the time.

Asked if a relationship of "trust" had been established between the White House and the British oil company, Allen replied, "We have to have a cooperative, productive relationship for this thing to work, moving forward. ...This has to be a unified effort moving forward if we are to get this thing solved. If you call that trust, yes."

Allen on Thursday sent a letter to BP's chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, summoning him and "any appropriate officials" from BP to meet with Obama and others next Wednesday. The White House said Friday that Svanberg would attend and that the company's CEO, Tony Hayward, is also assumed to be coming.