Monday, May 24, 2010

Obama's Dilemma - BP Valdez Revisited

We're only one month into the disastrous and continuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico - one that promises to go on for a considerable time as the relief well will not be completed until August - and the US federal government and Obama are now receiving much of the blame.

I absolutely agree that the admin deserve their share of the blame but if it's going to be aportioned then really their share should be considerably smaller than the actual culprits: BP, Transocean, Haliburton and the GOP which nnot not only promoted self-regulation for the industry but did all the could to hamper any oversight whatsoever. They played a major supporting role with non-stop lobbying for an end to regulations and for shouting at every turn "Drill Baby Drill!" As the linked article chronicles, ten short days after the explosion that sunk the Deepwater Horizon oil rig Republicans were busy introducing a bill that would speed up oil and gas developement on federal lands in western states while trying to circumvent more thorough environmenntal reviews.

The Obama administration's part of the blame in all this is that they did not stick to their guns and immediately work to change policies and clean up the mess left behind by the good ol' oil boys Bush/Cheney and the rest of that corporate fellating administration. In the Bush years, it was all about the drilling. The administration aggressively leased out millions of acres of public land and issued more than 50,000 drilling permits, in many cases risking wildlife habitat and ignoring legally mandated environmental reviews.

From Keith Olbermann's MSNBC program, Countdown: On the spreading the blame around:

On to Obama's current dilemma in all this: The tough choice Obama faces is taking the reins of trying to end the spill now or leave it to BP. Sadly it is industry, not the federal government that has the resources to deal with the leak 5,000 feet below the sea. ... fear is that if Obama federalizes the response and supplants BP, not only will it be more difficult to get the company to pay for the response efforts, but the federal government may not have the capacity to get the job done.

There has been talk that BP may face debarment, a move that would ban BP from future government contracts and end their drilling in federally controlled oil fields. Also there is talk of criminal charges which seems altogether unlikely given the hand-in-glove relationship between big oil and government.

In a story from the Miami Herald that revisits a similar blowout in the Gulf, I found a modicum of reason to be optimistic. Turns out that there is precedence for this kind of spill in the Gulf. Back in 1979 a blowout occurred on Ixtoc I, drilled by the Mexican-run Pemex, which still retains the dubious record of causing the world's largest accidental oil spill, dumping an estimated 138 million gallons over nine months. While swaths of oil did eventually end up covering Texas beaches, between one and three years later, everything was back to normal. There is, of course, no comparing beaches to the delicate eco-systems of Louisiana's marshes and yet maybe...

Anyhow, since it seems naive to not focus on what's happenng as I write, here's a story from the huffpo about some of the feathered victims of the spill: pelicans in Barataria Bay off Louisiana - and questions of whether those marshes and their inhabitants can be saved.

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