Sunday, May 30, 2010

BP: Or How Obama Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Big Oil

The news media, who have largely given this president a pass when it comes to policy decisions, have finally found their voice. Predictably, they picked the wrong thing to criticize, although Obama has no one but himself to blame. But it's beginning to feel a bit like the tag line for Dr. Strangelove.

BP now stands for [taking a] Big Piss. They have an abysmal safety record: In 2005, a fire at their Texas City refinery killed 15 workers and injured 180. They were also responsible for an Alaskan pipeline spill in 2006. According to Center for Public Integrity, two BP refineries (Texas City and Toledo, Ohio) in the US accounted for "97 percent of all flagrant safety violations found in the refining industry by government inspectors over the past three years." Most their over 800 citations were classified as "egregious willful" or "willful" by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), according to the report.

There is also mounting evidence that federal employees of the Louisiana branch of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) office, part of the Department of Interior, were looking the other way and/or accepting bribes and gifts from oil companies, as well as accusations of drug use. The report by the Acting Inspector General, Mary L. Kendal to Secretary Salazar quickly points out, "At the outset, I want to note that all of the conduct chronicled in this report occurred prior to 2007, and pre-dating your tenure as Secretary and your January, 2009 Ethics Guide."

Read into this: It's all Bush's fault; your superb leadership and ethics guide completely cleaned up the graft; kiss-kiss, may I please become the Inspector General now?

Anyone in Gulf Coast area knows this corruption is the "New Orleans way" similar to, oh...the "Chicago way" of doing things. Federal regulations already prohibited employees from accepting gifts of more than $20. (Note: In the case of a politician, a gift over $20 is referred to as a campaign contribution and a trip is a fact-finding tour.) Would a less corrupt federal staff have stopped the blowout? Doubtful, considering the number of incidents that were previously caught and for which BP was cited.

After the explosion, Open Secrets reported that BP spent it's highest amount ever in lobbying in 2009: $16 million in 2009 and $3.53 million in the first quarter overall. BP came in second to Conoco-Phillips for total lobbying dollars spent, money flowing to both sides of the aisle.

Despite the attempt by this administration to AGAIN blame the Bush administration, the increasing environmental disaster has become President "Government is the Answer" Obama's. However, this problem is way out of the government's league and the idea that any president can just snap his fingers and send out the military or any other force to fix it is ludicrous. It's a problem best solved by private industry with BP being held for the expense.

But as slick as he is, Obama is not going to be able to shake this. He and his liberal cohorts have been telling us that a powerful government will fix the world's ills. His environmental backers are angry that he wanted to allow offshore drilling and are furious the anointed one hasn't come up with a solution.

George Will stated on ABC's This Week that this may not be his "Katrina," as many others have compared it to, but his "Iran Hostage Crisis." This refers to President Jimmy Carter's disaster when 53 Americans were held for 444 days by Iranian militants and which cost him a second term. Carter's pacifist leanings made him weak and vulnerable in the eyes of terrorists.

However, I disagree with Will, in that the Iran affair was something a president could have done something about. Stopping an oil rig blowout is beyond that scope. What the president can do is provide resources to affected states. Unfortunately, a bad company has just now screwed any chance of offshore drilling for the foreseeable future by any company and keep us on the road to Arab oil dependence. Politicians will grandstand and create new laws instead of enforcing the ones they already have. With few exceptions we have become a nation that stands back and waits for the government to do something, whether the disaster is man-made or natural.

I'm not really sure when it came to pass that we expected a president to emote all over the place. Perhaps it was with Clintion's "I feel your pain" speech. Times have changed when we looked at ourselves for leadership or at best a local government. Now we expect the de facto leader of the free world to cry over dead seagulls and if he doesn't show he cares enough, we turn on him. Frankly I'd rather the president be more concerned with things, like the actions of the North Koreans and China in the wake of the torpedoing of a South Korean naval ship, something barely mentioned by the mainstream media. The oil mess in the Gulf may soon be the least of our worries!

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