Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Is the Oil Leak Obama's Katrina?

This phrase has been tossed around a lot lately: The Oil Spill is Obama’s Katrina. Cafferty’s Cafferty has commented on it as have dozens of other publications and polls.
As much as it pains me to admit it, I have to agree. Documents are coming out now that show the governmental agencies that approved Deepwater knew of the dangers it presented and did nothing. The lack of decisive action immediately following the spill was as negligent here as it was during Katrina. The idea that the company that was responsible for the accident would somehow have the incentive and ability to clean it up is laughable – especially a leak of such magnitude and complexity.

Russia has had experience with oil leaks of this magnitude. A Russian newspaper reported during the Soviet era, they successfully shut down leaking wells FIVE TIMES through small nuclear explosions.

But BP doesn’t want to do that until all options are explored ie. they don’t want to destroy their well because they can still make money from it. And that makes sense because they are a for-profit company. They are looking out for the best interests of their company and their shareholders. That’s how the "free" market works - right? However, someone needs to look out for the best interests of Americans – protecting our jobs and our environment. And that person should be the President. How long do we have to wait? Until the entire gulf is filled with oil?

I live in Florida and this is a catastrophe. The economy here is based on the tourist trade and will be destroyed as more and more oil begins to reach the shore and that’s just the short term. It’s impossible to imagine what will happen in the long term as the Gulf’s ecosystem is destroyed. Twenty years later, oil remaining from the Exxon Valdez spill is still dividing researchers on what to do.

Obama should have stepped up from the beginning. He should have quickly pulled together two expert committees: one for stopping the leak and one for the best practice in containing and cleaning up the leak. Then, using the advice of these experts, he should have immediately gone into action deploying the strategies that had a reasonable chance of success. I am empathetic that stopping this leak is complicated, but that does not excuse a failure in leadership. So much attention is being paid to BP’s liability – let the Justice Department figure that out and get to work stopping this leak.

Yesterday's St. Pete Times provided a story of a leadership success. Walton County, Florida officials grew tired of waiting for the Administration and BP for a plan to protect their coast. So they devised a plan on their own – creating a sand dam that will span the coast to protect their lakes from the oil. It’s inspiring to see such definitive action. Obama could learn a lesson or two.

What do you think? It was BP’s mess so BP should clean it up? What role should the Administration play in such a large natural disaster?


  1. The government should have played a much larger role from the beginning of the spill. Too much of Obama's focus has been on blame and punishment of BP. His latest comment that he needs to determine "whose ass to kick" is indicative of his whole "strategy". The time for punishment is later - much later after the spill has been contained. Obama needed to do what everyone said Bush didn't do during Katrina. That is act swiftly and get smart people together to come up with solutions. We are relying too much on BP's experts to work through this. Wouldn't it have been interesting and creative for Obama to have gone to NASA (who theoretically have some of the smartest people on the planet) and charged them with coming up with plans for dealing with the spill and the environmental aftermath. Might have made NASA feel revelant again. This is a disaster - and I am not just referring to the oil itself. Obama has simply not done enough. We don't need postering from a podium. We need action from this administration.

  2. It pains me as well, but I agree. Have no fear, I'll never go all Tea Party crazy, but President Obama has not lived up to my expectations. Though politicians are probably thankful for BP - someone to hate slightly more than "Washington Insiders".