Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Obama's Inaction And Lack Of Conviction To The BP Oil Spill Says It All

The British Petroleum oil spill is leaking more than 200,000 gallons of oil a day (the equivalent of 5,000 barrels) into the Gulf, and experts predict it will hit the coast within hours.Executives at BP have been unable to determine the exact cause of the explosion, which killed 11 workers on the oil rig the fuel company leases from Transocean Ltd. Although wild speculation has traced the cause to everything from neglect to poorly-made concrete seals, authorities said they will take into account all possibilities and have not ruled out criminal activity.Ironically, President Barack Obama is now taking some heat for the government's slow response to the catastrophe. It took the president nine days to even address the tragedy and 12 days to allocate federal resources. The irony, of course, is that Obama was one of President George W. Bush's harshest critics during the 2008 presidential campaign, and frequently pounded the administration for the federal government's slow response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In a speech given on race relations and Katrina at Harvard in October 2008, Obama said the response by Bush and FEMA revealed a "passive indifference" toward black people "that is common in our culture ..."
If this had just been a one-time, offhand remark, Obama's recent inaction to the BP oil spill wouldn't be so bewildering. But Obama made the Katrina debacle a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, implying over and over that he would have done things differently, and pledging that the change he was bringing would ensure it would never happen again.Now, a year and a half later, the Obama administration has its own Katrina on its hands. The White House, of course, is claiming that the two disasters have nothing in common, when in fact they have everything in common. Just like it did with Katrina, the oil spill's devastation is only now beginning to come into focus thirteen days after the initial destruction. Just like Katrina, the oil spill continues to wreak havoc the longer the cleanup goes unaddressed.The White House has been defending itself by saying that Katrina was a natural disaster, and therefore the federal government had the principal role in relief efforts (according to The Washington Times, however, "Later assessments by some organizations found that the primary responsibility for the disaster response lay with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, not federal officials"). The oil spill, on the other hand, was a man-made disaster, and therefore -- according to the White House -- the company responsible for the destruction is also responsible for its cleanup. In one case, nature laid waste to people, in the other, people laid waste to nature.The problem with this logic, however, is that a large oil company like BP isn't equipped to deal with an ecological disaster of this magnitude. If it is discovered that the spill was the result of a criminal act, the lag in response by the federal government will forever taint the Obama presidency. The administration has been defending its inaction recently by saying that the cleanup is BP's problem and that the company will foot the bill for its cost. Should investigators determine that foul play was the cause, however, the discussion will undoubtedly change and so will the debate over the Obama administration's level of blame.Many people mistakenly believe Bush simply didn't care about the people of New Orleans. The reality, however, is that he was simply waiting to see whether state and local officials would be able to handle the rescue and recovery efforts. His mistake was following protocol. Had he dispatched a federal response immediately, untold lives might have been saved. The lesson here was that, regardless of who bears the responsibility, it is the federal government's job to keep the nation and its resources safe from disaster.
Obama is finding out it's not enough to recognize the mistakes of the past and condemn them. One must learn from them as well.


  1. God willing, the Gulf Coast may be spared Prince-William-Sound-like images of waves of tarry goo slapping ashore, while wild birds and cuddly mammals struggle for survival in asphaltine muck.

    Last Friday, the Lafayette Daily Advertiser reported on the rescue of the first oil-covered bird Louisiana:

    It was the only animal being cleaned late Friday morning, but rescuers expected many more to come in throughout the day.

    Hmmm. Seen any more pictures? Me either.

    Today’s news brings reports of dead jellyfish …

    … it’s not uncommon to see jellyfish floating dead during high winds, but the number of dead found so far is beyond normal.

    and sea turtles in Mississippi, at least 25 miles from the leading edge of the advancing oil.

    Although this is the time of year when dead turtles are often found on the beach, scientists say the number is more than double what they would expect.

    What gives?

    Several factors may be at play in diminishing the shore impact of the current spill.

    Natural wave action will aerate and break up the slick. Chemical dispersants are being applied to speed up the process.
    The oil is lighter than the Alaskan crude from the Valdez spill, and hence is more prone to evaporate.
    The source of this spill is in open water some 50 miles from the nearest land, so the dispersants, the responders and Mother Nature have some time to do their thing before landfall.
    If we apply a few calculations, we can figure out how dispersed the oil might be.

    BP’s estimate is that the well is making some 5,000 barrels of crude oil per day. For convenience, we’ll say the well has been flowing for 14 days, or 70,000 barrels total. One barrel is 5.615 cubic feet, so the total volume of spilled oil is something like 400,000 cubic feet.

    Let’s say the size of the spill is 50 miles by 50 miles, or 2,500 square miles. (Actually, the size of the spill’s extent as shown in the New York Times graphic below is more like 5,100 square miles. I’ve embellished the original NYT graphic to depict these theoretical & estimated areas.)

    Four hundred thousand cubic feet of oil over 2,500 square miles is 160 cu ft per square mile, or just 1/4 cubic foot per acre. Spread uniformly over the entire 50 mi x 50 mi area, that would equate to a layer of oil 0.00007 inches thick.

    And that’s if none of the oil has evaporated, which it has.

    As we’ve seen in the pictures, the oil does tend to clump up in thicker ribbons. But the fact remains that much of the 5,100 sq mi is covered by “sheen”, which is what you get on the surface of a swimming pool if you go in after applying a generous layer of Coppertone.

    None of this is intended to minimize the potential for damage to specific populations and localized areas. For example, a brown pelican rookery was devastated just a few years ago by a small volume of oil spilled in a very vulnerable place at a very vulnerable time.

    As disappointing as it may be to some journos and enviros, the jellyfish and the sea turtle kills may well turn out to be natural events, unrelated to the oil spill. I’m praying that this spill event will end in the near future without a calamitous impact on either the wildlife or the human population of the Gulf Coast.

  2. Why don't we know how this happened yet?I think Obama is doing a bad job with his lack of reaction to this man-made disaster.

  3. Even The Highly Conservative New York Times On Sunday Critized Current Regime For Lack Of Urgency In This Incident And Did Not Blame The Bush Administration. Doesnt The EPA Have Some Involvement In this Matter Just Have Not Heard Much From Them.

  4. This isn't Obama's fault a$$holes. We need to end all oil drilling now before it is too late. If we would have had electric cars we would be in this situation. This is on all that use gas. Your greed made this happen.

  5. It is time that Obama takes over the oil drillers in this country now.

  6. Anonymous Where in The Hell In The Constitution Does It Say NOBAMA Can Take Over Private Industry! What Source Do We Now Use For Creating Electicity, Answer That Diry Ole Coal.

    Speaking Of Greed. Who Is Greedier The One That Earns Or The One That Takes From Them!

  7. Al, whoa hold on there...your getting all riled up and acting crazy. Don't let Anon get your goat and bring on the hALK, the angry green conservative monster.

    Go back to your Hooterville mayoral mansion and sip some nice tea and have a few scones. A tea party for one you might say.

  8. This is going to be bad for Obama. At least he is lucky when it comes to terrorist attacks. But lucky isn't good.

  9. Obama fucked up on this one too.

  10. Joe Never Really Do Get Excited. Not Like Some Of Your Huffing, Puffing and Foaming At The Mouth. How Do You Know so Much About "Hooterville"! Got A Fuzzy Lib Feeling You And Bruce Enjoy It There Comparing Notes And Drinking Kool Aide. Trust Me Tea Is Better For You And The Country.

  11. Boot the Boot Metaphor By Tony Blankley

    In the opening hours and days of an unanticipated event - such as the current off-shore oil leak, usually not much can be reliably learned about the details of the intruding event - but much can reliably be learned about the humans responding to it.

    For example, on April 29, the 9th day of the crisis, and the first day that the White House - in the person of the president - publicly responded to the growing mess, key players made revealing comments. We don't yet know whether the administration is culpable of the charge that they were asleep at the switch for a week - as The New York Times has already editorially charged (just as President Bush was seen to be in the first two to three days of the Katrina crisis). But it was clear by the 29th that the administration was sensitive to that political danger and was starting to point accusatory fingers at BP. ABC news reported:

    "Asked about the relationship between the U.S. government and BP, (Coast Guard) Admiral O'Hara referred to 'the professionalism of our partner, BP' and then corrected her use of the term 'partner.'

    'Yeah,' said (the ever eloquent presidential spokesman Robert) Gibbs.

    'They are not a partner,' said (Sec. of Homeland Security) Napolitano.

    'Bad choice of words,' said O'Hara, changing her description of BP to 'a responsible party.'

    Note that the admiral is a career professional doubtlessly experienced with ocean currents, but obviously not alert to the ever-shifting political currents in which she found herself. From a professional, problem-solving point of view, BP was a partner with the Coast Guard in trying to fix the mess.

    But while Gibbs and Napolitano may not be able to navigate a dingy across a yacht basin, as class-A politicians, they can see which way the political currents are moving, and quickly go with the flow - or even try to make the wave that changes the flow.

    A few days later on CNN's "State of the Union" show, Sec. of the Interior Salazar didn't have to be told the new political facts of life. He jumped right in with this little gem: "Our job basically is to keep the boot on the neck of BP to carry out the responsibilities they have both under the law and contractually to move forward and stop this spill."

    Within three days, BP's status had shifted from being a partner with the government to having its neck pinned to the ground by a federal government boot.

    In the first edition of this column (filed Monday morning), assuming that Salazar's poorly chosen phrase would be corrected, I wrote:

    "Salazar has not yet come out to rephrase his indelicate words. But I can't imagine that the PR boys and girls in the White House backroom like the image of their administration placing its boot on anyone's neck. (At least I hope they don't like that image.)"

    But on Monday, spokesman Gibbs repeated and endorsed the phrase - even after being questioned whether he really wanted to use that phrase.

  12. ran out of room but had more to post! So here is the rest:

    I surely hope that the president - who, with all his responsibilities, can't be expected to pay attention to everything his press secretary says - now that the phrase has made the headlines, will come out and withdraw that noxious phrase uttered by both his Interior secretary and his official spokesman.

    Because not only is the image of a boot on a neck inherently repulsive, but the special history of a government's boot so situated has a particularly vile history. The most famous image is, of course, George Orwell's:

    "But always - do not forget this, Winston - always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling forever on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." ("1984," Part III, Chap. III)

    But it doesn't require an Orwell to understand the brutalizing, sadistic nature of the image of a boot on the neck or throat. Well, for better or worse, these opening days of the oil leak crisis are revealing the temperament of the administration - which is to publicly brutalize the company that, whether they like it or not, they are going to have to work with to mitigate the environmental harm.

    Doubtlessly, there will be blame enough to go around when all the facts are known. But what we already have learned is that the administration is willing to undermine a needed good working relationship between itself and BP, as a price worth paying to try to gain an early political advantage.

    Worse, it shows their attitude toward a respected member of the corporate community.

    And worst of all, it shows an unhealthy disposition toward the exercise of governmental power.

  13. Al, you never get excited...whats all that extra caps and shit? talk about huffing and puffing the stuff ya post walks away with that crown. you are the champion of huffing and puffing, and probably wheezing too.

    what i know about Hooterville is only from your postings here. I didn't know it existed till you started advertising for it on your posts.


Please keep it clean and nice. Thank you for taking the time to post you thought. It means a lot to me that you do this.