Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Obama's Reichstag Oil Spill

On Tuesday evening, the 55th day since the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama took to the airwaves ostensibly to inform the nation about what his administration is doing in the face of the worst environmental disaster in American history. But in lieu of offering a solution, the president devoted a significant amount of time to trashing BP, lecturing like Al Gore and passing the “tar ball”.

The latter is ironic for a man who mocked the previous administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina on the White House website the very day the 44th president took office.

For much of the past month and a half, the president seems to have been a man in search of an “ass to blame” then intent on plugging a hole or containing the oil slick and when he hasn’t been slinging blame, the president has been rhetorically slinging BP’s money around without the capacity to actually back up the financial obligations he casually assigns to them.

BP will deservedly pay a steep price for whatever negligence, willful and unintended, that contributed to a catastrophe that threatens a way of life for generations of fishermen, Louisiana’s fragile wetlands that act as the state’s first line of defense from a hurricane’s storm surge and countless species of marine fauna that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico and coastal marshlands.

But publicly bitching about BP isn’t solving problems plaguing the gulf coast and its certainly not presidential leadership, something the voters hoped (thought?) they were getting.

And to make matters even worse for the Louisiana economy, the Obama Administration handed down a double-whammy by suspending deep water oil exploration.

Offshore oil drilling involves considerable risk, just like coal mining. President Obama should be aware of this since he delivered the eulogy at the memorial service for the 29 mine workers who were killed in the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.

Despite the pleadings of those who know the risks all too well, a diverse group that includes Louisiana Republicans and Democrats, the Times Picayune (the New Orleans newspaper that endorsed his presidential candidacy), offshore oil rig workers and fishermen, Obama remains irresolute on the moratorium, ignoring the fact that there are offshore rigs dotting across the gulf providing America the energy she needs.

Adding enormous insult to injury for Louisiana during his nationally televised address, the president had the audacity to invoke the environmental damage done to Louisiana’s coastline in part from the oil industry without offering succor.

Something that would help Louisiana would be for the president to get behind US Senator Mary Landrieu’s push to accelerate offshore oil royalty payments from the federal government as such funds would be dedicated to fighting coastal erosion.

But Landrieu’s allies on her side of the aisle are not inclined to send back to Louisiana oil dollars that could be better used to construct senior living centers in Medford, Massachusetts.

The refusal by the Democratic White House and Congress to embrace this measure of “economic justice” underscores their sincerity and begs to question the wisdom for a “red state” like Louisiana to send Democrats to Washington if they are unable to coax their colleagues to deliver for the state, when having a seat at the table doesn’t even entitle one to scraps.

Obama’s knee jerk deep water offshore policy is an example of the Obama Administration not letting the plight of the people get in the way of good policy.

Not missing the opportunity to parlay this crisis into winning converts to an impractical energy agenda, the president spent a sizable portion of his address deriding fossil fuels and the need to pursue alternative energy, though oil isn’t going to be significantly replaced as a critical component in the American energy fabric in our lifetime, no matter how many tens of billions the president casually throws against the wall or how many ludicrous taxes and trade schemes his rubber stamp Congress enacts.

Or for that matter how many more tens of billions the president makes for the House of Saud and Hugo Chavez by restricting our ability to supply ourselves with our own oil.

By the president’s words and actions, it’s abundantly clear that this crisis in a part of the country that didn’t vote for him isn’t as much a problem to be solved but a talking point to be used to advance a political agenda.