"The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants" - Albert Camus

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Crisis That Seemingly Will Not Be Wasted

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."  Though a sentiment expressed by the President's right hand man, Rahm Emanuel, it embodies the Chicago way of doing business - the only way - this White House is fond of. Could the Obama Administration's non-timely response to the environmental disaster in the Gulf have been calculated to achieve a desired result?  You judge.

The Hill reported yesterday that Mr. Obama's speech to the graduates of Carnegie Mellon University included his committment to getting the votes necessary to pass a Senate version of the disasterous climate bill that the House passed last year.  Until recently, climate bill was left for dead in the senate as voters are in no mood for economy killing measures.

Obama said the Gulf of Mexico oil spill shows that “we have to acknowledge that there are inherent risks to drilling four miles beneath the surface of the Earth — risks that are bound to increase the harder oil extraction becomes.” (of course, never mind the simple fact that the same lefy environmentalists are the reason why BP is drilling in deep water rather than shallow water or on dry land in Anwar)

It is a little more than just suspicious that a dead bill would be resuccitated this soon after an environmental disaster, which the Administration did not respond to with any urgency.

The way President Obama and his aides tell it, his administration instantly grasped the severity of what had happened.
"I want to emphasize, from Day 1, we have prepared and planned for the worst," Obama said.
Well, not exactly...not before or since the disaster ocurred.
The MMS (Minerals Management Service) is a government agency under the control of Obama. Obama cannot separate himself from the role of MMS in this matter and he is ultimately responsible for the successes or failure of that agency. Obama appointed S. Elizabeth Birmbaum to be the head of that agency in 2009. It was Obama's MMS that gave BP a waiver on April 6, 2009 that exempted BP from EPA requirements.
It was Obama's MMS that gave BP (and many others) permission to drill that well without a NOAA permit.
It was Obama's MMS that decided in 2009 that an acoustically-controled shut-off valve (BOP) would not be required as a last resort against underwater spills at this and other sites.
It was the Obama administration that dithered when this episode first started, and that seems to have led to a much more devastating incident. Obama did not address the issue for more than a week because he was busy traveling around complaining about an Arizona immigration enforcement law that he had not read, and he had fund raising dinners to attend. Obama's EPA head couldn't address the issue for more than a week because she was busy attending Earth Day events all over the country and appearing on the Daily Show with John Stewart.
The government had plans in place to address an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that were included in legislation and regulations passed in 1986, 1990, 1994 and later. NOAA had the "In-Situ-Burn plan that was developed in 1994 to respond to this type of incident. The 1994 plan included a burn waiver that would have allowed responders to immediately begin burning off oil without having to go through the 10 day plus federal permit process. Did Obama implement the "In-Situ-Burn" plan? No!
The burn plan was not implemented because the government did not own a fire resistant oil boom. The booms only cost a few hundred thousand dollars each, and one boom is capable of burning 75,000 gallons of oil an hour or 1,800,000 gallons a day. The Gulf of Mexico was calm enough to use the booms for the first 3 days of the incident, and one boom could have burned 5.4 million gallons of oil during that 3 day period.
The government should have had a stockpile of those booms laying around the Gulf states in case of an emergency. Each boom costs less than a half million dollars and it's not like the government didn't have the money. In 1986 Congress created the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. That fund placed a tax on every gallon of oil pumped out of the ground in this country, and the money was to be used to address the costs associated with oil spills. The president signed a law into place in 1990 which authorized the use of the money deposited in the Fund. There should have been plenty of money in the fund to buy a few spare oil booms. We don't know if the administrations of Bush 1, Clinton or Bush 2 never bought the booms in the first place, or were the booms lost or damaged, but that doesn't matter. What we do know is that this spill happened 16 months into the Obama term. The lack of oil booms is Obama's responsibility.

The Obama administration eventually got around to asking a midwest contractor if they could borrow their oil boom almost a week into the incident. By that time the gulf was too rough to effectively use the booms. The government also asked the contractor to contact other countries to see if we could borrow their booms. Obama was too busy to contact other world leaders (you know.., the world leaders who supposedly love Obama) to borrow their booms and left that responsibility to the small contractor who really had no connection to the issue.
It almost looks as if someone in the administration let this thing go on to capitalize of the negative publicity towards oil drilling it would garner. Why wasn't Obama on the phone asking for help from countries that are experts on oil spill incidents? Maybe Obama was not calling the leaders of those other countries because those countries were calling us with offers of help. It has now been discovered that many countries contacted us with offers to help, but the Obama regime made a deliberate decision to refuse their assistance.
"Late Wednesday evening, the State Department emailed reporters identifying the 13 entities that had offered the U.S. oil spill assistance. They were the governments of Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations.
"These offers include experts in various aspects of oil spill impacts, research and technical expertise, booms, chemical oil dispersants, oil pumps, skimmers, and wildlife treatment," the email read.
"While there is no need right now that the U.S. cannot meet, the U.S. Coast Guard is assessing these offers of assistance to see if there will be something which we will need in the near future."
Who in the heck in this administration is going to get fired for deciding to ask a small oil contractor in the midwest to call around the world begging for oil booms when officials in the Obama administration refused the help of at least 13 countries that are experts in oil spill operations. I'm no law expert, but to me the refusal of the Obama administration to accept the help of the other countries that raced to help us appears to almost be criminal, and certainly made a bad situation worse.

Then, of course, we have the request by Louisiana governor to build sand berms to salvage the coastline and marshes that are being decimated.  How long did it take the Army Corps of Engineers to allow 4 berms to be built (not the 16 requested)?  Try 14 days!  All this while this president was entertaining singers and travelling for political fundraising.  Remind you a little of Nero while Rome was burning?

The situation in fact got so bad that it is not only James Carville (the Democrat attack dog of choice) but the president's closest media allies who started complaining. 

The simple question boils down to this:  Is the Obama Administration this incompetent (being staffed to the hilt with nothing but academicians, and other non private sector ideologues, the answer is yes) or is there another agenda?  My money is split between the two since this crisis is clearly not being wasted in Rahm Emanuel's words.

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