Spilling Thoughts

Okay, it’s time. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been at or near the top of the news for weeks, and I have yet to comment on it. In one way, that kind of makes me similar to the president. It took him a while to say much publicly. The big difference, of course, is that I don’t have any responsibility for taking care of the situation. He does.

I also haven’t been playing basketball. Almost before he knew it, the whole thing seemed to get out of control.

Let me be clear: this oil spill is not President Obama’s fault, any more than hurricane Katrina was Bush’s fault. However, with the hurricane, the first responders were supposed to be state and local; they dropped the ball, and all the blame fell on Bush for some reason. In the current mess, the federal government is in the role of first responder simply because the spill is outside of any one state. Therefore, the president needs to take charge.

Of course, he would like for this to be a win-win arrangement for him.

Not so fast. Reports have come out lately that don’t place the president or his adminstration in a good light. For one, when Obama was a senator, he received more money from BP than any other politician. Second, it turns out his people at the Minerals Management Service, the government agency tasked with inspection of oil facilities, were taking gifts from the companies they were supposed to be inspecting. The head of that agency was recently fired, but Obama claimed not to even know if she was fired or if she resigned. That’s what I call being in charge.

BP, by the way, according to other reports, was the greatest offender in the industry with respect to systemic safety problems. In other words, the company was an accident waiting to happen.

What to do now? Well, our mania for the environment has made this even harder to fix. The desire to keep drilling as far offshore as possible has only complicated the solution. Good intentions do not always make for good policies.

As the oil heads for shore, states like Louisiana are requesting federal government help. Louisana Governor Bobby Jindal has repeatedly sought this aid. The response has been rather tepid and slow in coming.

Jindal was told that the government first had to do an environmental impact study to determine if setting up the barriers was environmentally sound. Someone could make a classic comedy film out of this, if so inclined. Don’t we already have a tremendous environmental impact that needs to be halted?

Now, I don’t really expect the federal government to be the answer to this problem. The expertise for fixing it is going to come from the private sector. But the president sets himself up for failure by making outlandish promises he can’t really keep.

The aura of invincibility and competence is dimming daily.