The chief executive of BP, Tony Hayward, has described the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico as a "transforming event" that would lead to "significant changes". But he added that the spill should not stop deep water oil drilling.
Mr Hayward told Today presenter Sarah Montague: "I don't believe it should, in the same way as Apollo 13 did not stop space programme (sic), nor have serious airline accidents, from time to time, stopped people flying. But what we need to do is ensure that the lessons are learnt, such that we can prevent a recurrence of this sort of incident."
But he conceded that the leak would be a "transforming event for exploration and production activities in the deep water of the world, in particular the deep water of the United States.
"You can't have an incident of this seriousness and not expect significant changes as a consequence," he added. "What we need to do is ensure that the changes we make address the risk that has occurred here."
BP has come is under increasing pressure as it tries to stop the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. President Obama has criticised what he called the "ridiculous spectacle" of BP and two other companies "falling over each other to point the finger of blame". He also said the oil industry and the regulators had become too close.
US experts believe that oil may be spewing from the site at a rate of up to 70,000 barrels (2.9 million gallons) a day, more than 10 times
faster than a government estimate of 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) a day.
Their findings suggest the spill has already eclipsed the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, which was the worst environmental disaster in US history.
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