Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Smearing With Oil

Even as the Deepwater Horizon oil slick continues washing ashore all along the Gulf Coast and there's no end in sight to the oil gushing from the damaged riser, politicians are doing what they do best - smearing each other and engaging in all manner of hyperbole.

Here's what we know.

The oil rig disaster and oil slick are not equivalent to 9/11.

It's not even close President Obama.

It's a different kind of disaster, but when you start tallying the toll - in the billions of dollars and the environmental damage to the Gulf Coast, it still isn't even close. Not when you compare it to the terrorist attack that killed nearly 3,000 people, caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, resulted in a massive government reorganization of national security and created new bureaucracies and sent the US into a war in Afghanistan along with setting the stage for the war in Iraq, there really is no comparison.

It was a bad analogy, and it shows that he is out of touch. Heck, even comparing the oil spill to Hurricane Katrina or Rita would be a poor one because of the loss of life involved.

This disaster also isn't the President's "Iran hostage crisis".

This is a disaster in its own right, and the blame falls squarely on BP and the operators of the rig. They cut corners and there were all kinds of problems before the explosion tore the rig apart and the resulting firefighting efforts resulted in the rig sinking and tearing apart the lines to the surface allowing massive amounts of oil to spill.

The President, in addition to making multiple visits to the region where he can look serious and ponder the situation thoughtfully in photo opportunities before jetting back to the comfort of the White House, must make it absolutely clear that he will make sure that the oil companies not only prepare for oil spill disasters, but that oversight will be improved.

Moreover, the President could improve matters by pushing for a temporary (or permanent) cessation of the Jones Act so that foreign flagged ships could be used to help clean up the spill. There are ships specially designed to deal with spills in Europe that can't be brought in to assist here because of that Act; a temporary freeze would help with the spill control and recovery.

Cleanup efforts continue to be haphazard and not taking into account the resources that are available around the country that could be brought to bear. That's a problem that the Administration must respond to.

President Obama also has to address how the 6-month moratorium on oil drilling wont affect the livelihood of tens of thousands of oil workers along the Gulf Coast who rely on the oil rigs for their living (and which produces significant revenues for those states as well).

The President is scheduled to make a public speech on television tonight where he'll outline the ongoing plans to deal with the oil spill.

The spill is now washing ashore in four states along the Gulf Coast - Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi.

Demanding new federal legislation to require an oil spill compensation fund that can be used for spill control and mitigation would be a good idea - and that a portion of the spill fund requirements go to research and development of new anti-spill technologies, better blow out preventer systems, and improved stockpiling of equipment. Clearly the lessons learned by the Exxon Valdez disaster didn't go far enough - and the liability caps need to be increased to reflect inflation since it was enacted.

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