Some Clarity on the Oil Spill

Whenever a tragedy like the Gulf oil spill occurs, plenty of questions arise: Why did this happen? What was the cause of this? Who is to blame? What can we learn from this disaster? Also, however, all the usual suspects emerge. Heaps of lefty critics are happy to hop on the band wagon, pushing their anti-America, anti-capitalism, anti-big business, and anti-fossil fuels agendas.

And of course a sympathetic mainstream media gives them a free ride. So all most people hear about all this is how evil Big Oil is, how evil BP is, how evil the free market is, and how evil fossil fuels are. But the reality is a bit more complex than this. As usual, the alternative media offers a bit of balance to the typical MSM bias.

A number of writers have sought to offer some facts about this disaster, and their voices deserve to be heard. This is not about reversing what the MSM has done, and putting all the blame in one camp while absolving the other. This is about trying to get some moral and intellectual clarity on what is a rather complex issue.

So let’s try to sort out fact from fiction here. First, the anti-fossil fuel brigade is having a field day with all this. Their solution? Simple: let’s just abandon our reliance on fossil fuels and resort to alternative energy sources. But things are not quite that easy.

As Debra J. Saunders notes, “Obama had the cheek to suggest that his decisions are good for ‘national security.’ To the extent that some day renewable energy replaces fossil fuels, he’s right. But for decades now, presidents from both parties have said as much – as the share of imported oil in America ballooned from 24 percent in 1970 to nearly 70 percent in 2008. These latest actions are likely to drive Big Oil to other parts of the world like Africa or South America, where there won’t be as many costly regulations.”

She continues, “Or as The New York Times reported, ‘The connection to the spill, of course, goes only so far. While (Obama) called for more wind turbines and solar panels, for instance, neither fills gasoline tanks in cars and trucks, and so their expansion would not particularly reduce the need for the sort of deepwater drilling that resulted in the spill.’

“I wanted to hear a president talk realistically about U.S. energy policy. Instead, I hear the leader of a no-risk nation where people think that they can pass a law and make solar energy as cheap as coal. Let me close by noting I do not know a single person who stopped driving because of this catastrophe. I also noticed the president did not suggest anyone do so.”

And what about the issue of regulation? Is this all the fault of the free market and Republicans? Larry Elder comments: “Obamatons blame the spill on ‘eight years of deregulation under Bush.’ If Bush ‘deregulated’ oil drilling, why has Obama threatened to prosecute BP for its alleged criminal failure to follow the regulations that Bush supposedly eliminated? If Bush’s deregulation caused the spill, how did BP get permission to drill this well two months into the Obama administration – and less than one month after submitting its application?”

The left simply wants to use this disaster as another excuse to expand the size of government, and further throttle the free market. The question is however whether this will in fact help things or actually make them worse. Says Elder,
“Here is the inconvenient truth. The more government regulates, the greater the incentive of the regulated to influence the rules. Economists call this ‘regulatory recapture.’ Technology constantly evolves. Government has neither the expertise nor the agility to keep up. The answer is fewer rules, not more – with the clear understanding that those who drill shall be completely responsible for screw-ups.

“If those who make mistakes suffer the consequences of their actions, they will make fewer of them. And the same mistakes likely will not be made again. Still, expect the unexpected. We live in an imperfect world. But Obama’s all-wise, all-knowing, all-caring government is perfectly poised to make things worse.”

Economist Thomas Sowell explains how politicising events like these simply does more harm than good: “The big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is bad enough in itself. But politics can make anything worse. Let’s stop and think. Either the government knows how to stop the oil spill or they don’t. If they know how to stop it, then why have they let thousands of barrels of oil per day keep gushing out, for weeks on end? All they have to do is tell BP to step aside, while the government comes in to do it right.

“If they don’t know, then what is all this political grandstanding about keeping their boot on the neck of BP, the Attorney General of the United States going down to the Gulf to threaten lawsuits – on what charges was unspecified – and President Obama showing up in his shirt sleeves?…

“If the Obama administration was for real, and trying to help get the oil spill contained as soon as possible, the last thing its Attorney General would be doing is threatening a lawsuit. A lawsuit is not going to stop the oil, and creating a distraction can only make people at BP start directing their attention toward covering themselves, instead of covering the oil well.

“If and when the Attorney General finds that BP did something illegal, that will be time enough to start a lawsuit. But making a public announcement at this time accomplishes absolutely nothing substantive. It is just more political grandstanding. This is not about oil. This is about snake oil.”

And just what has the Obama administration actually been doing about this mess anyway? Meredith Turney explains, “The response from the federal government to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has revealed an alarming lack of leadership and a surfeit of blame shifting. Now, shocking reports have emerged that a disaster response plan was instituted in 1994, but, again, the government didn’t follow it. Had leaders followed the ‘In-Situ Burn’ plan, fire booms would have been used to limit the spread of the oil and then burn it before it reached shore.

“Astonishingly, the federal government had to purchase one fire boom from a company in Illinois – eight days after the well began leaking oil. Then the government began begging other countries for the fire booms – which, if used when the accident first occurred, could have burned 1,800 barrels of oil per hour, stopping the spread 100 miles from shore. Yet again, the federal government has let down Gulf Coast residents. Despite rhetorical claims of taking action from ‘day one,’ the administration failed to spring into action when the Deepwater Horizon well exploded.

“The Obama administration was quick to begin diverting attention from their embarrassing lack of leadership by pronouncing loudly that BP would be liable for every bit of clean up costs. The disaster is still unfolding and already the blame game is in full swing. Congress joined the political hysteria when Democrat senators immediately introduced legislation raising the liability cap on oil companies for economic losses related to spills from $75 million to a staggering $10 billion. This is what passes for leadership nowadays?”

And of course the left always blames Republicans for being in bed with Big Oil. Turney offers some more inconvenient truths here: “Perhaps the Obama Administration and Congress are so intent on diverting the public’s attention because of emerging reports that the Interior Department exempted BP’s Gulf of Mexico drilling operations from environmental impact studies last year, protocol that government has used to regulate oil companies. And, according to a Politico article, President Obama was the top recipient of campaign donations from BP over the last 20 years.

“Regardless of such revelations, the government had a plan instituted for such oil spill disasters, and that plan wasn’t executed – whether by nonfeasance or malfeasance should be investigated. Instead of posturing for the public, and wasting time on casting blame, the administration should use every resource to prevent further damage. Then, once the disaster is over, investigate ways to prevent future incidents. Instead of providing leadership in the country’s hour of need and directing tangible help to those directly affected, the Obama Administration is engaged in a public relations battle.”

Finally, there is this obvious truth: if all this had happened under the watch of a Republican administration, say under George W. Bush, the MSM would long ago have demanded his immediate resignation for utter incompetence, neglect and mismanagement.

But because it is the messiah Obama who is in charge, the poster boy of the MSM lefties, no one is calling for such actions. As former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said yesterday on an American TV talk show: “Boy, you guys really give this guy a break that is beyond… They’d have been working on impeachment of Bush by now. If Bush were the president and handled it this way, there’d be like a movement to throw him out of office… Just try to be fair.”

Is all this to suggest that BP is beyond reproach, and the oil industry can do no wrong? Of course not. But it is to offer a modicum of information and fact seldom heard in our left-leaning MSM. In a democracy such a free flow of information is vital. But I can already anticipate the critics seeking to shoot the messenger here.

townhall.com/columnists/DebraJSaunders/2010/06/17/obamas_inaction_in_the_name_of_action
townhall.com/columnists/ThomasSowell/2010/06/15/oil_and_snake_oil
townhall.com/columnists/MeredithTurney/2010/05/05/the_oil_spill_blame_game
patriotpost.us/opinion/larry-elder/2010/06/17/obama-learns-limits-of-government-oil-spill-kicks-his-hope-and-change/
www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2010/06/17/giuliani_if_this_was_bush_he_would_have_been_impeached_by_now.html

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10 Replies to “Some Clarity on the Oil Spill”

  1. It’s funny how many people demonize ‘big oil’, but routinely use any number of technologies daily that rely heavily on their product, including cheap energy for the transportation of goods like food. It’s kinda like how with the new mining tax leftists are moralizing about the companies getting all the wealth from the ground. Er, well, I wonder if they are going to dig it out of the ground and refine it themselves??? Where do they think the materials for their fridges, computers, bicycles and mobile phones came from? Are they sure they haven’t already greatly benefited from the companies’ desire to make a profit?

    The simple fact that the do-gooder ‘greenies’ don’t want to face is that mod cons and even life essentials are possible in no small part to the very industries they so regularly whine about. I wish the people who are considering voting for these lunatics would realize that putting people in power who are disconnected from reality is not a good idea. You can see from Obama how utterly unsuitable for leadership these people are when an emergency situation arises.

    Mark Rabich

  2. Yes quite right Mark. The left is forever condemning capitalism and big business, all the while enjoying the benefits of them. It is typical leftist hypocrisy and duplicity.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  3. Bill, well written!.

    When I was less busy in the past, I used to read some aircraft magazines, and the analysis of air accidents was always a fascinating study.

    Big disasters of all kinds feature a common thread – that the cause can never be pinned down to one specific failure, lapse or culpable action.

    It is always the accumulation of a number of things – short cuts, lack of maintenance, failure of regulation, occasionally outright malfeasance, but finally the factors all come together when a trigger event occurs, and the various backup protective measures fail to save the day.

    We will see this when the BP Enquiry reports (and the Bushfire Royal Commission in Victoria, too).

    It would have been the case with Torrey Canyon and Exxon Valdez too.

    John Angelico

  4. Thank you Bill for your enlightening comments on the oil leak. ‘All the king’s (Obama’s) horses and all the king’s men could not put Humpty together again’. Obama qualified for such a visual award. God’s word says, ‘I will bless those who bless you (confer prosperity or happiness upon you) and curse him who curses or uses insolent language toward you.’Genesis 12:3 Ampl.
    God responded when Obama affronted the Prime Minister of God’s special people. God was not well pleased. Our God responds nationally – as well as individually.
    Harrold Steward

  5. Of the three general causes of industrial accidents: machine failure, human error, and management failure. Which people tend to think are to blame in decreasing order, it tends to be the opposite with management failure being the worst.

    Some large scale industrial accidents:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piper_Alpha
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster

    We studied these cases a uni. Both were primarily “management failure”. Its not surprising if it is the same here.

    Malcolm Davey

  6. To Mark Rabich – brilliant post mate – right on the money!!
    Steve Davis

  7. While BP must acknowledge blame for some of the short cuts they took in this tragedy, much blame should be heaped on the Greenies, who have prevented the oil companies from drilling closer to land and on land, where contrary to Obama’s comments, there is plenty of oil.The fact that they were compelled to drill so far off shore, was a major contributing factor to the disaster. The other point is that 13 countries offered Obama top professional help and he turned them down in writing. The Dutch offered a fleet of ships, with the facilities to sweep up all the oil, Obama turned them down. He was out playing golf. Obama is not a manager, he is a legislator, that is why he is so useless. He used an old 1920 Jones’ Law, which denies foreign seaman from working in American waters, which can and was repealed temporarily by George W. Bush during the Katrina hurricane emergency. With Obama’s rhetoric, some in the public have turned on BP service stations, even smashing windows. This has no effect on BP, but only damages hard working families with franchises. If they went broke, BP wouldn’t even know. I believe Obama and his Greenies are delighted with the damage and want it to continue. They think it will help their pantheistic, atheistic “religion”.
    Frank Bellet, Petrie QLD

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