Obama, BP, and the Killing of the Gulf of Mexico

Back in the 90’s, one of my favorite commercials used the tagline, “At BASF, we don’t make a lot of the products you buy; we make a lot of the products you buy better.” Well my friends, when thinking about our government’s response to the continued pouring of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, I can only think that our government didn’t make the crisis in the Gulf; they made the crisis in the Gulf more catastrophic.

First, let’s ask the most simple question. How much oil is leaking into the Gulf of Mexico?

We don’t know. Right after the explosion, we were told that 42,000 gallons per day were leaking into the Gulf. Shortly after that, the number was corrected to 210,000 gallons daily. On Thursday, May 27th, that number was increased to more than 500,000 gallons a day (with some estimates at more than 1 million gallons daily).

Now, here’s the kicker. The spill at this time, with whatever semantics we want to call it, is under the control of BP. Right now, it is what it is. It’s BP’s mess and they’re the ones that have been told to fix it. Now, when you have the same person in charge of reporting about and cleaning up the problem they created, I would think that a reasonable person would expect the problem to be under-reported.

Why wouldn’t it be? I mean, let’s think look at the Tennessee coal ash disaster of 2008. Remember it? It was described as the biggest natural disaster in US history and was originally estimated at 1.7 million cubic yards. It was actually 3 times that — 5.4 million.

But, any idiot with a problem knows that sometimes, you may not be the most qualified person to clean your own mess. If you cause a small fire in the kitchen, you might be able to handle it with the fire extinguisher. Hopefully, you’re smart enough to realize when it’s time to call the Fire Department. If you’re not, chances are any one of your neighbors will do it for you.

Of course, we don’t have an Oil Department. Oh wait, we kind of do. You know the one that approved the permits (while watching porn and accepting gifts and jobs from the oil companies). We also have a coast guard, a military, an Environmental Protection Agency, and countless other governmental entities paid by our tax dollars. Are we saying that our government, the United States Government that put humans on the moon, doesn’t have any capabilities of stopping this leak? Is the only entity with the technology and resources to stop this issue British Petroleum?

If this is true, then we’re fucked. Stick a fork in me. Throw in the towel, and get Aretha Franklin a microphone (if it’s time for a fat lady to sing, it might as well be good).

Is there a reason that while we were sitting, watching BP try this “top kill” that we didn’t tell them to star to drilling relief wells just in case? Is there a reason our government cannot start drilling one or two wells themselves? I mean even Bruce Willis knows that you don’t just send one team to drill (and he was right, because Ben Affleck saved his ass… well not his ass, but the world’s ass. Yes. Armageddon. And, yes. I liked that movie.)

BP is effectively in charge of the entire Gulf cleanup and I see us doing nothing. We have a live feed from their cameras. Their cameras. Their feed. I’m thinking step one should have been sending our own crew down there and installing our own monitoring, but that’s just me.

Of course, BP would never limit access to the media or the government, right?

Oh wait… there was that CBS team that was threatened with arrest if they didn’t leave a beach. And that photographer who wasn’t allowed to fly above the Gulf at lower than 3,000 feet. And that 500 foot zone around any BP vessel, and…

Obama promised to “…establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.” It hasn’t happened yet, and he’s not doing shit about it. Not doing jack shit.

Of course, I’m not looking at Obama to waive a magic wand and make this better. Although I am not looking to him to make this worse, either.

So what do I want him to do?

At this point, anything. Just DO something. Don’t talk about what you’re going to do. Don’t tell me what you’re planning. Just shut up and do something. Whatever credibility the government had, is eroding at the rate of a Grecian dollar. I value talk from government in bullshit. More talk, is more bullshit. Unless this bullshit can be used to plug the leak, I respectfully ask that the bullshit stop. Dig some wells. Get a sub down there and monitor it. Do something and then tell us what you’re actually doing.

The government didn’t make this crisis. But they surely helped make it more catastrophic.

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Fred Posner 2010-05-29 Reply

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Darrick 2010-05-29 Reply

“Daddy did you plug the hole?” Obama could have made himself out to be a good guy on this failure if he would have done just what Fred implies. Get some OTHER experts involved. Who the f*$k cares at this point who caused the problem. FIX the problem. If that means pulling in experts from other companies who were not involved directly in drilling, pumping or otherwise creating this mess, then DO IT.

We’re living in such a lawsuit happy country, that other people may not be getting involved for fear of suggesting something (that may not work) and then being sued later for that suggestion.

Michael Graves 2010-05-30 Reply

The matter is more than a little complicated, at least from a legal perspective. My wife tells me that BP is screwing up the PR end of things and should have people out cleaning beaches, washing pelicans, etc. She’s wright, but PR is the least of BP’s priorities.

The president may not have as much resource to act in this problem as some think. At least act directly.

However, there are things that he could do. For example, he should get the other major oil companies to assist in monitoring BP. We need to ensure that they’re giving us the truth, that the best technical minds of the entire industry are brought to bear on the matter.

The hard part is that as the group down there gets larger it will be less agile. They need to move swiftly from idea, to approval and implementation.

Also, to go beyond consulting other parties are going to need to be indemnified..protected against subsequent legal action.

It seems that every kind of solution on offer has never been done before. That’s just the nature of the situation.

While it’s true that we put men on the moon, we took over a decade to do it. In contrast, the last operating space shuttle is 25 years old. Our recent history is not as glorious as it was in the mid-20th century.

No-one in the political arena would have handled the gulf situation any better. I’m at least grateful that we haven’t started bombing the UK.

BP has had a long string of problems, too many to list. Deadly explosions in their Texas City refinery just 3 years ago were just some of the more public ones.

We need regulators with teeth to ensure that industry take safety and environmental issues seriously. That’s one thing that they current administration CAN do…revamp the regulatory structures that were disassembled or crippled under previous regimes.

Fred Posner 2010-05-30 Reply

The thing that puzzles me is at the minimum, we should have something down there. We have the technology to go that deep with cameras and instruments. Hell, technology existed years ago for private parties to go very deep and look at the titanic. On the legal area, we do have the beautiful doctrine of world devastating catastrophe. This is at the very least an emergency. And during an emergency, an incredible amount of power is temporarily extended to the government.

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