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LONDON – Oil executives sent a strong challenge to Barack Obama on Tuesday, warning at a major oil conference that the American president's ban on risky deepwater drilling would cripple world energy supplies.
As a BP executive standing in for embattled CEO Tony Hayward was heckled by protesters, other industry leaders used the gathering to rally around the British company, arguing that eliminating deepsea rigs in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was unsustainable.
BP chief of staff Steve Westwell, who was heckled during a speech in which he stood in for Hayward, said "regulators around the world will obviously want to know what happened" to cause the blown-out well in the Gulf and will change their procedures accordingly.
"The world does need the oil and the energy that is going to have to come from deepwater production going forward," Westwell said. "Therefore, the regulatory framework must still enable that to be a viable commercial position."
Westwell was interrupted twice during his address by protesters from Greenpeace shouting "we need to end the oil age!" The hecklers were escorted out of the heavily policed central London hotel by security.
Pryor was diplomatic when asked if his company would have been as reckless as BP, whose leader skipped the gathering after receiving stinging criticism for watching his yacht compete Saturday off England's Isle of Wight. That glitzy outing that drew outrage on the Gulf coast and an acerbic response from the White House.