Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Slick Arguments

 

Kim Strassel make a good argument in the Wall Street Journal today that, in attacking Obama for his handling of the oil leak, the GOP had better watch it. Insist that the federal government ought to be big and powerful enough to plug leaks a mile under water at a moment’s notice? Argue that offshore oil exploration is so risky that the Obama administration should never have approved it? Those lines of attack could very easily twist around to bite the GOP itself.

On the other hand, it’s entirely legitmate, I can’t help supposing, to hold the Obama administraton responsible for enforcing the federal laws and regulations that govern offshore exploration and drilling. Unlike the Katrina disaster, in which primary legal responsibility for managing the emergency lay with the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana—both utterly dysfunctional, as we quickly learned, but still—the oil rig that blew up in the Gulf was drilling in federal waters.

Do we have any experts in the Ricochet audience? Because all this leads, I think, to two questions:

Was the Obama administration right to permit BP to begin operating the doomed rig in the first place?

And if the Obama administration had proven both prudent and competent in administering the various federal agencies into whose jurisdication the vast oil spill has now washed up, what would the administration have so far done differently?

There are 7 comments.

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  1. Nick Stuart Inactive

    It is interesting to see the pundits and politicians scream for BP to “plug the damn hole.”

    They can’t believe that nobody has an immediate fix for the problem. That a solution cannot simply be spoken into existence. That President Obama cannot simply leap over the rainbow on his unicorn and make it all better. They lack what some historians refer to as “a sense of the tragic.” That “stuff happens.” That in the universal scheme of things what a person, a president, or a nation can do is really pretty small. In other words, they’re like children. Clearly there was a plan A (the blowout preventer), but evidently only fragments of a plan B (in case the BOP malfunctions). No plan C. Clearly there is culpability on the part of all the actors (BP, Transocean, and the Federal Government) for not being REALLY PREPARED with plans B, C, and D. Beyond that there is a limit to what can be done by mortals. It is disturbing, but not terrifyingly so, that the spill happened. What is terrifying is the apparent complete inability of the Federal Government to deal with the current reality in a coherent and constructive manner. For example, Gov. Jindal’s 5/11 request for approval to dredge and create new sand berms to protect wetlands is still pending as far as I know (yes, 2% of the plan has received some of the approvals it needs, the oil spill will have naturally biodegraded, Gibralter have crumbled, and the pyramids turned into dust by the time the Federal Government acts). We’re supposed to find assurance in the picture of the Federal Government with it’s “boot on the neck of BP” although those of us who have felt the boot of the Federal Government (always attached to the left leg) on our necks wonder how BP is supposed to get any work done in that position. Instead we have President Obama acting like Louis XIV, dining on quail eggs and caviar, and throwing magnificent banquets and ostentatious entertainments for the America-bashing president of Mexico. Apres nous, le deluge.

    It is interesting to see the pundits and politicians scream for BP to “plug the damn hole.” They can’t believe that nobody has an immediate fix for the problem. That a solution cannot simply be spoken into existence. That President Obama cannot simply leap over the rainbow on his unicorn and make it all better. They lack what some historians refer to as “a sense of the tragic.” That “stuff happens.” That in the universal scheme of things what a person, a president, or a nation can do is really pretty small. In other words, they’re like children. Clearly there was a plan A (the blowout preventer), but evidently only fragments of a plan B (in case the BOP malfunctions). No plan C. Clearly there is culpability on the part of all the actors (BP, Transocean, and the Federal Government) for not being REALLY PREPARED with plans B, C, and D. Beyond that there is a limit to what can be done by mortals. It is disturbing, but not terrifyingly so, that the spill happened. What is terrifying is the apparent complete inability of the Federal Government to deal with the current reality in a coherent and constructive manner. For example, Gov. Jindal’s 5/11 request for approval to dredge and create new sand berms to protect wetlands is still pending as far as I know (yes, 2% of the plan has received some of the approvals it needs, the oil spill will have naturally biodegraded, Gibralter have crumbled, and the pyramids turned into dust by the time the Federal Government acts). We’re supposed to find assurance in the picture of the Federal Government with it’s “boot on the neck of BP” although those of us who have felt the boot of the Federal Government (always attached to the left leg) on our necks wonder how BP is supposed to get any work done in that position. Instead we have President Obama acting like Louis XIV, dining on quail eggs and caviar, and throwing magnificent banquets and ostentatious entertainments for the America-bashing president of Mexico. Apres nous, le deluge.

    • #1
    • May 29, 2010, at 4:30 AM PDT
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  2. Robert Bennett Inactive

    The Ocean is a dangerous place. There are always unknown dangers, and they get worse the deeper you go. It must be lamented that oil companies are forced to go into such deep water (5000 feet). It would be much easier to plug a hole in less than 1000. But that’s illegal for some reason. The Obama administration can’t be blamed for this, but they will be. Especially because this is going to keep leaking until August and they can get that special equipment. I hope that volcano eruptions, oil spills, and earthquakes help people see that government can’t take care of them. I guess it kinda cheers me up to think a black hole would be worse.

    • #2
    • May 29, 2010, at 7:46 AM PDT
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  3. Ken Palmer Member
    Ken Palmer Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    It’s a matter of care and concern. The government obviously does not have the expertise to handle this nor should they. I do believe that the president should be showing much more care and concern about this issue and facilitating the effort to stop it and clean up the mess. Instead the federal government is hindering the efforts of those that do know what they are doing and stalling others that want to help. Similar to the flooding in middle Tennessee the president has shown little or no concern for those affected. President Obama should be showing genuine concern for those who are affected and facilitating and not hindering the efforts of those actually trying to fix the problem. The last thing we need is the government “in charge of the situation” as he put it. I would have much rather heard that the government was making sure that the resources to stop, contain and clean up this spill where being provided to those that could do the job and the government was supporting all efforts. Maybe its just that I wasn’t invited to eat quail eggs.

    • #3
    • May 29, 2010, at 8:07 AM PDT
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  4. SoNowThen Inactive

    I was sort of thinking about this the other day, too, Peter. This is one of the things the mainstream is really (finally) attacking Obama on, when it seems to me he shouldn’t be much on the radar for this at all. It also seems like a lose-lose for those of us on the right, since attacking somehow leads to a comparison with Katrina, which comes off as some kind of admission of guilt for “our side”, whereas attacking for the hard left could slip into the administration saying “oh well, yeah, see this proves yet again that we need MORE power and MORE regulations and for once we are going to really listen to the people and sort this out”. Which is terrifying.

    Another thing I was thinking about, and this may sound incredibly stupid because I’m certainly not an expert by any measure, but why do people use a spill like this as proof of oil company greed? Is this spill not costing them mounds of cash? Surely if I were a greedy oil exec I would want this oil on the market rather than in the bottom of the ocean?

    • #4
    • May 29, 2010, at 8:35 AM PDT
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  5. Scott R Member
    Scott R Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Peter: Out here in fly-over country, the impression I get is that the people understand that unforeseen accidents happen and therefore exonerate the president for all actions prior to the blow–permitting the well to operate, not having sufficient plans in place, and so on. Just as with Katrina, though, there is a strong perception that he’s been disengaged, unconcerned, golfing while Rome burns (and for a month!!!) Your questions are interesting–I’d like those answers too–but for my work-a-day compatriots, such details seem of little interest. This incident is just one more drip–in what has been a steady drip, drip, drip–of evidence that this guy isn’t what they thought he was. So the lesson has so far been, I think, entirely Obama-centric, not a grand rethinking of energy, the environment, or the role of government, which is probably good for us, since Democrats will ALWAYS do environmentalism more effectively (politically, that is).

    • #5
    • May 29, 2010, at 9:11 AM PDT
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  6. Scott R Member
    Scott R Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hey, while we’re asking questions, here’s a theory that makes perfect sense to me but which I haven’t heard anywhere: At some point (and it may have already happened) the slick will stop growing regardless of whether the hole gets plugged. As the surface area of the slick increases, more oil is coming in contact with sea water, sunlight, wave action, dispersants, and so forth, and so the rate at which the oil is evaporating, emulsifying–or whatever it is that oil does–also increases. Once this rate matches the rate of the leak, the slick stops growing. Follow? And watch: Once they finally get that sucker plugged–and some George Savage-type will eventually figure out a way–Mother Nature is going to shock the world with her resiliency.

    • #6
    • May 29, 2010, at 9:37 AM PDT
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  7. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I disagree a bit with Kim, even though her precaution is reasonable, less because “there but for the grace…” than because the world knows that conservatives don’t trust the feds while Obama wants them to run everything from the Central Planning Committee. There are as many or more non-knowledgeable political hacks assigned to FEMA and EPA here as there were under Mr. Brown in 2005, and the world is finally recognizing that.

    But in the end- no matter what, a sloppy response to a natural disaster will be blamed on the people in power- thta is the way of the world today. So we might as well take full advantage of the shoe being on the left foot this time, because it will surely shift, and we will be blamed whether or not we are at fault.

    • #7
    • May 29, 2010, at 11:01 AM PDT
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