May 28, 2010

Failure to Stop the Gulf Oil Gusher is Not Obama's Katrina

Monique Chartier

... of course, Katrina was not Bush's Katrina. The only "serious" criticism that could be leveled is that he failed for several days to read the minds of a Governor and a Mayor who couldn't stop sitting on their hands long enough to pick up the telephone and ask for help.

But I'm risking an unnecessary discussion of events long behind us. So let's set that aside for the moment and see if we can agree on the definition of a "Katrina". How about this?

It is a situation in which a POTUS 1.) is aware of a disaster 2.) is cognizant that governmental resources exist that could help to abate that disaster and 3.) fails to send those resources knowing full well that they are needed and have been called for.

Clearly, then, the Gulf oil disaster fails item #2 of this test. Contrary to the observations this week of some critics (a list that includes even lefties Carville and Matthews), no branch of the United States government possesses the skills or equipment to deal with an uncapped, gushing oil well one mile under water. This is very much a specialized area of expertise.

Now, could President Obama have attempted to identify another company, possibly another oil company, and elbowed aside BP so as to give this other company a shot at stopping the gusher? Yes, maybe. It would have been a maneuver not without risk, though. If the other company had failed, for instance, could BP have claimed that they would have succeeded? What about the matter of liability? Would the president have reduced BP's liability and placed some liability onto the US government in doing so? Certainly some high powered attorney would have so argued in court.

Another thing. Was it the height of brainless bureaucratic numb-scullery for the US Army Corps of Engineers to call for an environmental impact study before they would consider authorizing the installation of sand berms to protect marshes and other areas along the coast? No question. Several people in that agency need to be fired immediately after they complete the voluntary lobotomies that they had clearly started to undergo just prior to reviewing the application for these sand berms.

(Feel free to take a snack break here as I try to explain.)

These berms were requested, ladies and gentlemen of the Army Corps of Engineers, to try to stop some of the MILLIONS OF GALLONS OF CRUDE OIL WHICH HAS SPILLED INTO THE GULF OF MEXICO, a situation which YOU HAVE OBVIOUSLY NOT HEARD ABOUT even though for the last month, it has been COVERED 24/7 WITH BLARING HEADLINES AND FLASHY GRAPHICS BY EVERY MEDIA OUTLET KNOWN TO MAN.

(Where were we? Oh, yes.) Again, though, the berm denseness of the Army Corps cannot be pinned on the president, at least not until the Louisiana Congressional delegation started jumping up and down in unison, which is something that they did fairly late in the game.

Is the president being too cute by half about the exact circumstances of the termination of employment of Elizabeth Birnbaum, the newly former head of the US Minerals Management Service? Sure he is. And it's not making him look good. But it, too, is a secondary matter - even if he had handled it perfectly, it wouldn't have stopped the oil spill.

There is a very, very, very long list of fiscal, economic, sovereignty, national security and foreign policy proposals and decisions for which the president can be criticized in depth. The steadfast refusal of the mainstream media over the last year and a half to see or discuss 95% of that list makes it very tempting to jump on the president when such a glaringly visible disaster presents itself. We need to resist that, though, both in the interest of our own integrity and so as to retain credibility when we bring up the items on that extremely long list. Failure to cap an underwater oil well is not on that list.

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It seems to me that conservatives are philosophically inclined to cut Obama some slack on the BP oil leak since we recognize that there are many things that are just beyond the control of government. In fact, as the Army Corps of Engineers has demonstrated so dramatically, sometimes government actively interferes with finding solutions to a crisis.

It is progressives whose policies rest upon the assumption that governmental competence and effectiveness are virtually unlimited. Unfortunately for President Obama, his ego will not allow him to admit that his role in this matter is pretty much limited to watching BP try to fix its own mess so he ends up cooperating with those who seek to blame him.

Posted by: David P at May 29, 2010 12:32 AM

Does anyone else besides me ever get tired of Monique's incessant sarcasm?

Posted by: Rasputin at May 29, 2010 12:35 AM

I've watched in detached interest as the progressives blame every single environmental problem caused by the private sector on free markets and unregulated capitalism. As if there are no environmental regulations already in place, and as if government would run everything perfectly and without any accidents if we only granted it more power. I've yet to hear them acknowledge the fact that the US government is the worst polluting organization in the entire world.

Posted by: Dan at May 29, 2010 1:01 AM

There is no sarcasm here, Rasputin. I sincerely do not believe that President Obama is responsible for not stopping the oil spill.

Why? Do you believe that he is?

Posted by: Monique at May 29, 2010 6:41 AM

Peggy Noonan has a brilliant column along these same lines.
As I've been saying for quite awhile now Obama will never be able to remove the oil stain from his hands.
The Layabout in Chief will never overcome the political damage done by the shocking indifference he has shown towards an ecological (and economic) disaster heading for our Gulf shores.

Posted by: Tim at May 29, 2010 7:02 AM

"Layabout-in -Chief"LOL.
Very accurate unfortunately.Always has that cocktail glass raised,doesn't he?He's a dilettante who got handed the Whole Enchilada by a duped electorate.
Hope those that voted this nincompoop in are happy.
His handlers sure are.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 29, 2010 12:50 PM

Whether it is fair to blame "Progressives" (formerly "Liberals") for blaming Obama is an open question in my mind.

Our Presidents campaign on the idea that they can, and will, do anything. Those unsophisticated about the nature of our government tend to believe this. In truth, the powers of the President are severely limited, and some of us believe that is how it should be.

While I don't know what Obama could really do, I think it politically unwise for him to be taking a vacation at the moment.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at May 29, 2010 1:37 PM

The "do-nothing" presidents blasted by historians are my favorites. I'd love to have a do-nothing president for a change.

Posted by: Dan at May 29, 2010 3:58 PM

Obama is the biggest fraud ever foisted on the American public. He is a smug, arrogant jerk. What would you expect of an affirmative action pick for president?

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at May 29, 2010 5:40 PM

"Layabout-in -Chief"LOL.
Very accurate unfortunately.Always has that cocktail glass raised,doesn't he?He's a dilettante who got handed the Whole Enchilada by a duped electorate.
Hope those that voted this nincompoop in are happy.
His handlers sure are.

Posted by joe bernstein at May 29, 2010 12:50 PM

Yeah. He reminds me quite a bit of Reagan. Same style. Let those Republican governors in the gulf states that have been so cozy with BP and the oil industry stew in their own juices. Too bad that additude is ( our political culture) what passes for governence.

Posted by: David S at May 29, 2010 7:58 PM

"Drill, Baby, Drill!" was a 2008 Republican campaign slogan originally used at the 2008 Republican National Convention by current RNC chairman Michael Steele. The slogan expressed support for increased drilling for petroleum as a source of additional energy. Sarah Palin has also used the slogan "Drill, Baby, Drill!" during her Vice Presidential bid and the Tea Party has used "Drill, Baby, Drill!”

In 2010 the Republican slogan has received renewed attention because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a major oil spill at a BP offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill is causing extensive environmental damages and economic losses estimated in the billions of dollars. It is estimated 19,000 barrels (798,000 gallons) of oil are spewing into the gulf every day making this disaster perhaps twice the size of the Exxon Valdez incident or maybe the largest oil spill in the world.

As of today May 29, 2010 it has been 40 days since the oil well catastrophe and BP has made 4 major attempts to stop the leak which have failed (modified blowout preventer manual activation, “top hat”, siphon pipe and “Top Kill”). They are now getting ready to try a modified “top hat” to stop the flow.

Monique is correct in her assessment that the USA government does not have the specialized training, manpower nor equipment to take over control from BP nor assume the liability of the spill by pushing BP out of the way and bringing in another offshore oil drilling company. At this point I don’t think any of the other oil drilling companies wants to get involved and assume liability.

The relief well being drilled is only 50 days from reaching target. However, Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be very active this year so expect the weather activity to pickup in the Gulf. Oil fouled barrier islands that protect New Orleans and Gulf States will be void of grass and vegetation leaving no protection during a hurricane.

Also if the winds shift and oil flow is not stopped soon there is an increasing chance the oil will reach the gulf loop current which goes around Florida and up the east coast to near Cape Cod meaning this oil spill has a chance, worst case scenario, of potentially fouling the east coast fishing, shell fishing and beaches so RI you could be impacted with oil on the beaches!

It is my understanding the Republican slogan has now been parodied as "Spill, baby, spill".

Posted by: Ken at May 29, 2010 8:31 PM

Let's sit back a second, try the decaf and think about this.

We have had one oil spill out of how many wells?

How often do planes crash, do we ban airplanes?

How many people are killed in car crashes, do we ban cars?

People die in natural gas explosions, have we banned natural gas in homes?

The answer to all the above is no. Have we regulated them, yes. But, people are still killed. They all continue because they are deemed necessary.

We need the oil, our economy, our way of life depend on it. There will be problems. Deal with it. Tolerate the people with oil stains on thier face, in sympathy with the wildlife. I wonder where they got the oil.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at May 29, 2010 10:33 PM

Warrington Faust,

More people die in the bathroom than any other place in the United States per year. I know 12 people in my circle of friends in RI that died there! So think about it as you sit too long reading!!!

The State of Hawaii was selected by President George W. Bush to be the test model for lowering carbon foot print in the United States working with Department of Energy and to be a model to the rest of the state in the nation as to what does and does not work.

Hawaii is the most oil dependent state in the nation importing 90% of its energy needs via imported oil. Hawaii pays some of the highest gasoline and electricity costs in the nation.

State of Hawaii has set a goal of reducing oil imports by 70% by year 2030 via 30% state-wide alternate energy use and 40% energy efficiency.

Offshore wind farms are not an option in Hawaii due to the high cost of that energy and destructive nature building the supporting towers. Hawaii chased what was to be the first in nation offshore wind farm out of the state back to the mainland!

All other alternate energy system already in use, in design and in exploration is fair game in Hawaii as if it is currently on the table or in design or being explored it is currently in some type of test in Hawaii.

One island is already up to 40% alternate energy supplied and two more islands are moving to 100% alternate energy. Private companies, shopping centers, private residences, state and local government, military and local public utilities are applying common sense alternate energy applications to reduce energy costs and increase energy efficiency.

The city of Honolulu has started replacing outdated buses with energy efficient hybrid buses; Governor Linda Lingle (R) has started converting government buildings to solar, deep water cooling is being used to air-condition 13 city blocks of downtown Honolulu replacing electric powered refrigerated chillers, military has converted vehicles to solar generated hydrogen fuel cells, added solar hot water and photovoltaic systems to base housing as has state/local government, business and residents (Hawaii is 1st state in nation to mandate solar hot water systems on new construction) state is partnering in constructing of 10,000 public electric charging stations and 15 5-min battery swap out stations on Oahu in anticipation of car manufactures flooding the state with new electric cars getting up to 300 miles on a $10 charge.

Hawaii has been a test bed for all electric cars over the last year.

We have wind farms, building the 2nd largest solar photovoltaic farm in the USA, ocean buoys that sit 14 ft out of the water generating electricity being clustered to create a farm in the megawatts for about $0.11 per Kwh 24/7 instead of RI’s offshore wind farm standing 400 ft out of the ocean at $0.24 per Kwh and Cape Wind at $0.20 per Kwh.

Lockheed Martin is building a low profile OTEC (Ocean Thermo Energy Conversion) 10 MW generating demonstration plant that will sit about 3,000 ft off shore at 98% efficiency (solar panels and small wind generator will make up lost 2%) using ocean temperature differential which later will be increased to 100 MW and 100% self sufficient. The only successful OTECs built in the world have been in Hawaii operating over 100% self sufficient efficiency.

Hawaii is bringing on line its 2nd waste to energy plant that EPA certifies for clean air output.

Hawaii is also the only state in the nation that manufactures synthetic natural gas thereby controlling the cost of gas to homes and businesses.

My condominium association has already reduced our public common area electricity use by over $17,000 a year with energy efficiency and we are on track to significantly lower remaining cost by introducing solar photovoltaic systems.

Warrington Faust you and the rest of RI can have Hawaii’s reduced excess 70% of imported oil in 2030 paying the whimsical price up; price never goes low oil energy albatross hanging around your neck sucking on oil.

Republican President Bush and Republican Governor Lingle has moved this state in the right direction which is showing because Hawaii for the last four months is moving out of the recession and our energy costs have been decreasing as each alternate energy system is brought on line.

Posted by: Ken at May 30, 2010 3:37 AM

"I wonder where they got the oil."

Duh, Warrington! Clearly, not naturally, out of the earth, as you are implying. Halliburton invented the stuff so as to enslave the world ...

Posted by: Monique at May 30, 2010 9:56 PM

Does EVERYTHING need to be politicized?
This is an engineering problem and a lot of energy is being expended on blame.
Maybe we could stuff the leak with "pundits".Their swollen heads should do the trick.
When did we start using "pundit",an abominable word,or "wonk"?Before or after "gravitas"?
Oh yeah,and who's tired of heraing "out of context"?

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 31, 2010 7:39 AM

"When did we start using "pundit",an abominable word,or "wonk"?Before or after "gravitas"?
Oh yeah,and who's tired of heraing "out of context"?"

Joe, you just need to think out of the box ...

Posted by: Monique at May 31, 2010 9:13 PM

I've been "out of the box" in my approach to the world since I was born feet first.

Posted by: joe bernstein at June 2, 2010 3:05 PM
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