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May 30, 2010 – Vol.15 No.11

DEEPWATER HORIZON NOT OBAMA’S KATRINA.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News

What are Americans expecting, for Obama to order the Marines to march into BP headquarters and force executives at gunpoint to plug the damn hole?

President Obama has been receiving increasing and unjustified flak – even from his own party and supporters – for his supposed lackluster response to the oil environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Attackers are comparing Obama’s reaction to the spill to President George Bush’s slow-off-the-mark reaction to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation along the Gulf coast in 2005.

The only thing in common with the spill of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon and Katrina is the location of their occurrence – mostly, so far, on and near the coastline of the state of Louisiana. And that’s where the comparison ends.

The Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is the result of lax business regulation and deregulation beginning back in the 1980’s, when Obama was in his 20’s. Since the Reagan era businesses and industry have been saying they don’t need government oversight, they can police themselves and government should stay out of the way. Generally, Congress and the White House have agreed for 30 years. The near collapse of the financial system in 2008 and the resulting Great Recession have proved deregulation folly in the banking sector. Deepwater Horizon proves the mistake of deregulation in the energy sector.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster is yet more proof that sometimes government has to keep a watchful eye over individual industries or sectors of the economy. Sometimes government has to keep the screw-ups of one vital industry from damaging another, and in doing so protect all Americans and all industries from their own failures. Sometimes the government has to regulate for the greater good – the country as a whole.

It was only a few months ago that people didn’t want Obama to meddle with the nation’s private health care system. Now they’re mad that Obama ISN’T meddling with the private oil industry. No wonder the man is regreting his newfound gray hairs.

If anything, Obama has been doing exactly what the many have been telling government to do for decades: stay out of the way of business. Until recent announcements he’s left the problem for BP to handle, while still giving assistance through the Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Guard and others, which, by the way, he expects BP to reimburse the country for.

In truth the government couldn’t take over the well-sealing operation if it wanted to. The U.S. government is not in the oil business. It has no equipment to drill deepwater oil wells, let alone the equipment to repair them. It has no experience in drilling oil other than from a knowledge point of view which is probably limited. And it has owns little equipment to clean up an oil mess of this magnitude.

Imagine this. What would have happened if, say 20 years ago, the government wanted to invest billions in a fleet of oil skimmers and other oil cleanup devices that could be kept on call in case a large spill occurred? Politicians would have laughed. Pundits would have screamed “Government waste!”. People would have said no.

Government has been trusting the oil industry to do the right thing for decades. Obama has been following the lead of his predecessors.

The only way for government to have the capabilities to cap leaking wells like MC252, the official name for the Deepwater well, is take over the oil companies, nationalize them, and that’s not going to happen.

True, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), as a government agency whose ultimate boss is the President, appears to be part of the long chain of failures, because of their coziness with the oil industry, which led to the spill. There are thousands of agencies within government. The President can’t possibly oversee them all. The head of the agency has left under pressure, and the agency that is supposed to regulate the oil industry while collecting oil lease payments is in the process of being broken up under Executive branch orders.

It’s false to compare Katrina with Deepwater Horizon. Katrina was an act of nature. (Perhaps made more powerful by man.) The ongoing oil disaster is a preventable act of private enterprise. For decades people, pundits and politicians have been telling government to trust business to do the right thing. Initially Obama did exactly that. Don’t blame him for doing what people claim they want. Instead, back him on building a clean energy economy.

 

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