Barack Obama Barack Obama

President Barack Obama called the BP oil spill "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced" in a Tuesday night broadcast that dominated the airwaves with real-life prime-time drama. His use of the Oval Office address, reserved for only the most serious presidential pronouncements, suggested he would approach the cleanup campaign like a war.

In the address — which ran for roughly 17 minutes, aired on all four major broadcast networks as well as cable news channels CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel — Obama said he was naming Navy Secretary Ray Mabus (a former Mississippi governor) as a recovery czar, insisting BP "set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners" hurt by the spill and aiming to develop a long-range plan to "restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region."

VIDEO: Watch President Obama's speech here

"Make no mistake: we will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long it takes," Obama said in Tuesday's address to the nation. "We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever's necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy."

He pointed out that some 30,000 workers were already involved in the cleanup effort and he had authorized more than 17,000 National Guardsmen to help.

He further called for a broad energy bill to lower U.S dependence on foreign oil. "The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight," Obama said. "Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude."

A poll showed that viewers were interested in what the president had to say on prime-time television, with 66 percent maintaining it's a crisis than demands the nation's attention, rather than the usual TV fare.