WASHINGTON — The explosion at an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is no reason to give up plans to expand offshore drilling, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday.
Gibbs said President Barack Obama continues to believe that the United States needs a comprehensive solution to its energy problems — including expanded domestic production of oil and natural gas.
Obama believes most energy production can be done safely and without harming the environment, Gibbs said, but he conceded there will sometimes be accidents.
On March 31, Obama called for new offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean from Delaware to central Florida, plus the northern waters of Alaska. He also wants Congress to lift a drilling ban in the oil-rich eastern Gulf of Mexico, 125 miles from Florida beaches.
"In all honesty, I doubt this is the first accident that has happened, and I doubt it will be the last," Gibbs told reporters.
The search was suspended Friday for 11 workers missing after the explosion late Tuesday on the rig, Deepwater Horizon, off the Louisiana coast.
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said no oil appeared to be leaking from a well head at the ocean floor, nor was any oil leaking at the water's surface. But she said crews were closely monitoring the rig for any more crude that might spill out.
The Coast Guard estimates about 200 barrels of oil are still floating on the water. Another 180 gallons of oil and water mixed have been skimmed from the water and the Coast Guard believes a significant amount has evaporated.
A light sheen of oil was visible over approximately 100 square miles Friday morning. By afternoon, the Coast Guard said, that area appeared to be much smaller.