Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Note On How President Obama Can Really Take Ownership of the BP Oil Disaster

The emerging story on the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is President Obama turning over all aspects the relief efforts to BP. This is not inconsistent with what Congressman Ron Paul called the Presidents corporatism. President Obama’s connection to BP oil runs deep. Interestingly enough while the oil industry gave twice as much money to the Republicans as Democrats, BP oil gave twice as much to Obama over McCain during the presidential election. President Obama also appointed BP senior manager Silvia Baca to the federal office of Minerals Management Service and BP’s chief scientist Steve Koonin as undersecretary of science to the Department of Energy. Then, when the President created a commission to look into the BP Oil Disaster, he chooses William K. Reilly as a commissioner, who is currently on the payrolls of both ConocoPhillips and Dupont.

Former Shell oil executive John Hofmeister has said while discussing BP relief efforts, “I think that (they) are still relying upon old techniques for the control of the surface oil. I think we have to change our mindset, put a new paradigm in place. And instead of dispersing and burning and booming, what about collecting? What about collecting that oil, setting up a row of barges, a wall of barges with high-volume pumps, or use of supertankers that could drift back and forth in the sea, sucking in huge volumes of, yes, water and oil, but get the oil off the sea to start with?” The use of the supertankers sucking oil off the surface of the sea was used successfully in Saudi Arabia in 1994 (yes 16 years ago) to suck up 80% of a 700 million gallon spill. The reasons this is not being attempted is varied, but Hoofmesiter states it is most likely the result of NIH (Not Invented Here syndrome). The dispersing and booming is the easy and cheap way the handle the problem. The end result is to hide as much oil as possible under water and let nature take it’s course as the remaining oil on the surface slops up on the beaches. This tragically ignores that the use of dispersements is likely to magnify poisoning the rich fishing grounds in the Gulf. You see BP knows that unlike the Alaska’s Exxon Valdez spill, the combination of tropical heat and storms in the Gulf of Mexico, will eventually scrub the beaches relatively clean, so there’s really no cost effective means to protect them. Using sand berms, supertankers and bacteria is considered to be inefficient, not because they won’t help clean up the ocean, but they are too expensive. By not leaving the oil on the surface, it can not evaporate or be treated with bacteria, plus using dispersement is the moral equivalent of spraying agent orange over the Ho Chi Minh trail.

The President has mistakenly lumped the leak and clean up into the same camp. This is the area were President Obama can clearly take a leadership role. While the government should rightly turn over the plugging of the leak to BP, but if BP is unable or unwilling to properly conduct the cleanup, then the federal government needs start making some decisions for BP. But just taking responsibility for the clean up and falling on his sword is not what’s needed now, because we don’t have time for it. The President needs to take ownership, not just responsibility. First, let BP stop the leak; but don’t micro manage BP either. Instead, we have the White House saying they’re going to direct BP to drill two relief wells, not just one and then a week later say, we are now ordering BP to drill three relief wells. This is the action of an Autocrat, not a leader. We need more than President Obama’s statement, “things seem to be getting better”.

Much has also been said that the BP Oil Disaster for President Obama, is akin to President Bush’s “Katrina”; but it’s equivalent is more like President Carter’s Hostage situation in Iran. Like the Hostage situation, this is an ongoing crisis, where the anger and frustration of the American people continue to increase every day; there is even a day ‘count’ going on. To stem the anger and frustration President Obama needs to take ownership of the relief and cleanup. Can you imagine the reaction of the American people if they saw a line of supertankers in the Mexican Gulf sucking up the oil? When the Department of the Interior told BP not to use a certain dispresement, they told the US to “pound sand” and continued to use what they wanted. The President should have stood up and said,"We've got some work to do. I don't mind, by the way, being responsible. I expect to be held responsible for these issues because I'm the president…but I don't want the folks that created the mess -- I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them just to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess". This is what he told the Republicans Aug 6, 2009; why can’t he say the same thing to BP.

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