BP and Obama

Okay. Let’s discuss the devastation of an eco-system, an economy and a damn pretty place. Why is Obama hanging all his hopes on BP and not turning to every oil company who has had experience in capping and containing oil spills? There’s certainly enough of them. This could turn from catastrophe to triumph for him. Even the liberal blogs are asking these questions. He’s acting more like an “oil man” than that “oil man” who last resided in the White House. Someone illuminate me.

  1. Trace

    I don’t know Denise. Seems as though if someone at another oil company had a brilliant idea they might have mentioned it by now. Also brings to mind a few “how-many-oil-executives-does-it-take” jokes. It’s hard to think about this as anything other than a colossal market failure. What I find interesting is that this is a circumstance where there is nothing government can do; its limitations are tragically apparent. Lord knows if it were just a matter of money, the administration would have acted already. It’s really not Obama’s fault, except in his having encouraged us all to believe in the power of government to fix all our problems.

  2. The Warning

    He could be genuinely inept at his job, or it could have something to do with him receiving more corporate campaign contributions from BP than anyone else.

    If you’ll forgive my being conspiratorial for a moment, I think the administration wants the spill to get worse. The more public outcry created, the greater the justification for increased federal power to regulate the oil and gas industries, and we’ve already seen it.

    Rescinding previous assurances to increase offshore oil exploration, calls for regulatory overhaul, and a .33 a barrel tax surcharge ostensibly to pay for cleanup efforts. The tax would raise in excess of $11 billion over ten years. But I’m guessing it won’t go away once the cleanup is complete and paid for. It becomes a punitive tax on the industry, passed through to the consumer, for the “sin” of using fossil fuels.

    Green is the new “Red”.

  3. John Boyer

    This is a crisis he is definitely letting go to waste. Heck, not only is Obama not exploiting it, he’s not doing anything.

    Obama’s Katrina indeed.

  4. Duane Oyen

    I suspect that The Warning has a point, since the tax will indeed be with us forever, as all taxes are.

    But I also suspect that the WH is not acting because this issue is exactly the same as every other issue out there- to be decided not by optimizing the situation on the “ground” (cliches sometimes just fail to fit right- at least we aren’t equipping those Coast Guard divers with boots), but by a political assessment. And they need a little bit more time to figure out how to blame this on Bush without getting, er, tarred themselves.

    The other point is that this crisis is really a godsend for Obama’s “Green Jobs” agenda. What has been going on the last two weeks? The Spanish government has had to dump its big green jobs program, the one Obama cited endlessly as the shining example of what we should do instead of drilling for dirty fossil fuels- and they had to dump the program precisely because it is a money and job-sucker, not a new millennium of the condor lying down with the windmill. This is the perfect headline grabber to shroud that one. 

  5. Dave Carter
    C

    Denise, the cynic in me senses that Obama realizes the difficulty of the effort BP is undertaking and knows the chances of successive failures are high before reaching eventual success. He is content to let BP have the spotlight for now. That way, he can blame them when needed while waiting for the right moment to seize the credit when things go well thereby voting present again. But then, the realist in me looks around and, …says that the cynic is probably right.

  6. Rob Long
    C

    I’m not sure there is a solution. The moving parts are: a well drilled about 5000 feet below the ocean floor; enormously high pressure; human beings.

    Look, I know this is probably the wrong time to say this, but drilling for oil is a risky business, and it’s amazing that (considering the above mentioned moving parts) this kind of thing happens so rarely.

    It does, though, seem to mesh with the prevailing attitude in this country that risk is something that can be eliminated, with enough car seat belts and bicycle helmets and loan modifications and lawsuits.

    We’re going to spend a lot of time searching for “negligence” and “culpability” for this disaster, when it really comes down to: enormous depth + pressure + human beings.

  7. Pat in Obamaland

    I am completely with you Rob. If there was an easy solution, BP and/or the Federal Government would have resolved the oil spill long ago. BP stands to lose hundreds of millions, if not billions, in the long-run from lawsuits (both from the spill and the workers’ deaths), loss of output, destruction of infrastructure, loss of goodwill, and the reassignment of resources to address the spill. In the end we are drilling 5,000 feet below the ocean floor.

    I believe the Journal Editorial Report put it best: this disaster highlights the administration’s completely ignorance of incentives. BP has every incentive to resolve this oil spill as quickly as possible; it does not need any “boot on its throat.” The fact of the matter is resolving the oil spill just isn’t that easy.

  8. George Savage
    C
    Rob Long: It does, though, seem to mesh with the prevailing attitude in this country that risk is something that can be eliminated, with enough car seat belts and bicycle helmets and loan modifications and lawsuits.· May. 25 at 9:49am

    I blame JK Rowling. Magical thinking is the real public health threat in the US today. Life is about tradeoffs. Harry Potter is about magic. Magic is more fun, until the oil rig blows.

  9. Benjamin Carter

    I gotta agree with you, Rob. I’m really tired of hearing the blame game. Who’s at fault? Who’s responsible? Honestly, I don’t care!

    Some things are genuinely accidents. When working with such extreme depths/pressures, you put your best security measures in place and then you cross your fingers a little. You can’t plan for everything.

    Also, Dave, while it’s nice of Obama to let BP “have the spotlight for now”, shouldn’t anyone and everyone who can help be helping? I have the same question as Denise: Why are we relying on BP to clean this up? Something as big as this spill effects many more companies and industries than just BP. If someone spills water on my computer at work, I’m not gonna let the system fry while they go find a way to clean it up.

  10. Aaron Miller

    I’m the son of a retired petroleum geologist who worked exclusively on Gulf of Mexico wells and keeps in touch with other oilmen. Here’s what I’ve been told.

    Sealing this leak is mostly experimental, since a leak at this depth is new. BP and other companies had plans for this scenario, but they’ve never been able to test those plans. All oil companies realize it is in the interest of the whole industry to fix this problem quickly (and yes, oilmen have hearts too and care for reasons other than money), so BP is accepting help from many sources… government being the least qualified. Many oil workers involved in the fix have friends and family throughout the affected Gulf Coast.

    The efforts which have made the news are only the short-term actions. Long-term, the only way to completely seal the well (if it doesn’t clog itself) is to drill into it again from alternate angles. This process takes months.

    Oil companies didn’t expect a quick fix, only politicians and media. The industry would handle both the leak and cleanup without government aid; and better, too.

  11. G.A. Dean

    RE: James comment on the “technocracy”… The parallel illusion in the data world is the assumption that because of the explosion of data, we now “know much more” and will make smarter decisions. Of course data is not knowledge, and the decision is still being made in a human head, even worse in a committee of heads. In practice an avalanche of data and “news” often makes things worse, and if a bureaucratic committee is involved, it is guaranteed to make things worse.

    Which goes to Denise’s original question; the inaction at the White House. No doubt they have tons of fresh information on the event daily and are thinking through hundreds of scenarios; in other words, “paralysis through analysis.” Oh, and there are also lawyers involved. People are today planning how to spend the rest of their law careers litigating this one. That will tend to slow down the rush to “try anything.”

  12. George Savage
    C

    I think one reason more of us go in for magical thinking nowadays is a decline in the perceived value and actual attainment of educational breadth. A lot of higher education nowadays amounts to a necessarily complex form of trade school. I speak as a product of just such programs in engineering, medicine and business. Specialization yields wonderful benefits — the network I’m sending this message on, for example, and the medical products I work on every day — but educational breadth should be pursued in parallel for its own sake. The alternative is a world populated by invincibly ignorant citizens, expert only in their narrow domains, who nevertheless imagine they know everything worth knowing.

  13. bvilleyellowdog

    It is my understanding that BP already has help from all the majors – on site – in thier “war room”. The government cannot “take over” because they do not have the capability – it’s really that simple. Should the government even have that capability? I doubt it — if a driller cannot make a solid case that it can control a problem then it should not be allowed to drill period. Having said that they could be forcing BP to be much more open – all data gets released immediately. Force them to stop using techniques that are determined to be harmful (the dispersant?). Don’t let BP have full control about who has access to the site. Etc.

  14. bvilleyellowdog

    Will this really hurt the country? Or is it another wake-up call? There is not enough off shore oil to ever seriously impact oil prices one way or the other. Nobody but OPEC sets oil prices – that and the overall market for energy. OPEC is for the post part run by bad guys. Why pay them? Up to now the US has been paying for oil to be the energy source of choice – cheap leases, low royalties, tax credits etc. You get what you pay for. Why pay people who do not like us? We can affect oil usage by fuel economy measure s and by alternative fuels. But all that government money that currently goes to oil and put it to solar and wind power and see what happens….

  15. Scott R

    Put all that money into solar and wind and see what happens? Been done, and Spain is what happens. Learn from the leak, and then get back to drilling, preferably on the continental shelf this time so as not to make the process unnecessarily challenging–forcing ourselves to drill in depths of a mile or more is nuts.

  16. James Poulos
    C
    George Savage: I blame JK Rowling. Magical thinking is the real public health threat in the US today. Life is about tradeoffs. Harry Potter is about magic. Magic is more fun, until the oil rig blows.

    This is why I have to pipe up when smart critics of the national scene say we’re in dangerous thrall to technocracy. Yes, let’s curb our enthusiasm for outsourcing more and more of our political problems to ‘the experts’. But let’s also be aware that we’re growing more technocratic at the same time as we’re growing more enchanted by mythopoetic and magical thinking. American optimism is a great and powerful thing, but when it amplifies this troublesome combo, look out.

  17. Aaron Miller

    The long-term consequences of this problem will be three-fold, as I see it:

    (1) Gas prices will rise as a result of increased taxation and regulation of the oil industry. That means the transportation costs of all goods goes up and the general economy suffers.

    (2) Obama and his ilk will use the opportunity to gain more control over the oil industry. Keep in mind, in most nations, governments own the industry. When gas prices rise, Dems will use this feed people’s anger at oil companies and gain further control via regulation. Price controls are also a possibility (it’s happened in America before, under FDR). Outright government ownership of the industry is unlikely in the immediate future, but certainly a long-term goal of statists like Obama.

    (3) Dems will seek to transform Gulf fisherman and other affected workers into a new welfare class on which the Democratic Party can rely for votes. Poor people tend to vote Democrat anyway, but the Deep South is one of the Republicans’ most reliable voting blocks.

    Politically, this oil spill is a major blow for conservatives regardless of how the recovery process goes.

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