August 11, 2010

Spills, Agendas, and Money

Justin Katz

After an excellent description of the process and risks of deep sea oil drilling, Mario Loyola turns political (see PDF here if you don't subscribe to National Review):

What is more startling is that, judging by appearances at least, Obama may be trying to advance his agenda by intentionally causing a fuel shortage. The moratorium on offshore drilling; the browbeating of BP into disgorging assets regardless of actual liability; the EPA's unjustifiable quashing of licenses for most of the refineries in Texas, supposedly over air-pollution concerns; the Interior Department's failure to process license renewals for a slew of shallow-water wells, which are much less tricky than those in deep water — all these actions bespeak a desire to create a hostile regulatory environment for oil extraction.

Many of Obama's supporters — those at the Brookings Institution, for example — seem to think that a severe oil shortage is precisely what we need to save the environment and kick-start the transition to green energy. Governor Jindal tells me that when he complained to Obama about the impact of the offshore-drilling moratorium on Louisiana's jobs and businesses, the president suggested, apparently in all seriousness, that the losses caused by his moratorium could be compensated from the $20 billion BP spill-liability fund that he had just seized control of.

The attack on American businesses and the United States economy is startling enough, but the procedural maneuver of extracting a massive pool of money from a company to be used toward the end of refashioning the energy industry in heavy handed ways is astonishing. My complaint isn't in defense of BP or the oil industry in total, but against this sort of government tactic.

The peculiar thing is that those who rail against Big Oil have no problem imagining conspiracies to squelch alternative energy technologies and U.S. presidents who go to war to increase the bottom lines of their oil executive pals. Yet, they are not discomfited by powerful politicians, with their own links to other industries, manipulating environmental disasters and threatening the well-being of the economy during a time of historic recession, provided the causes nominally being served are politically popular.