I’ve been meaning to write a more comprehensive post about the Gulf oil spill for more than a week and this post is my attempt to do so. But first I want to quickly note President Clinton’s comments about blowing up the well, and why some engineers think it’s a bad idea.
George Will asked to comment on the BP $20 billion dollar contingency fund comes back with a classic answer. If you are not worried you should be. His biggest concern is the White House usurping the courts in terms of claims against BP and of course that it’s not exactly voluntary. The Chicago Way.
Because … the media will ride this bad boy harder than a dark horse in a stakes race. In case you are not familiar with the story, Texas Congressman Joe Barton apologized to BP President Tony Hayward this morning for what he called a “shake down” by the President of the United States. The topic was the $20 billion dollars “voluntary” escrow account for Gulf Coast damages.
Yesterday, the president was successful in getting BP executives to fork over $20 billion – probably just a deposit – towards funding an escrow account to pay claims. The federal government’s success provided clearance for the city of New Orleans to do the same. They want $75 million.
It certainly feels good to put the screws to BP doesn’t it? The $20 billion to be paid over years (with a government lien on BP assets) into the federal government’s shakedown escrow fund does nothing to stop the flow of oil or clean up the mess. But what has it really done?
If you are not shaking your head in disbelief after reading this, “you are a better man than I”. Apparently, President Obama has refused to allow experts in oil spill cleanup to enter United States waters and assist in the cleanup.
Here is what we know courtesy of my environmental engineer friend. De Standaard, a Dutch newspaper, wrote an article explaining that several European countries offered their help to Obama. They have ships designed for the express purpose of cleaning up oil spills…the U.S. has none. They claim that they can finish the job in three to four months…the administration is projecting nine months.
Obama told them, no.
Why, you ask? The problem, is U.S. law, specifically, the Jones Act. It requires that all ships transporting goods between U.S. ports must be constructed in the United States, owned by United States citizens, and crewed by United States citizens. Presidents have the power to suspend the Jones Act, and, in times of emergency, have done so in the past. But, so as not to antagonize the unions in general, and the longshoremen in particular, Obama has refused to suspend the Jones Act. And, thus, the countries with the most knowledge and the best equipment to deal with this disaster have been prohibited from bringing their “foreign” ships, and “foreign” crews to help the Gulf Coast cleanup on the oft chance that the unions would claim a violation of the Jones Act.
As my engineer friend said in his e-mail,
President Bush suspended the Jones Act in the aftermath of Katrina in order to speed assistance to the storm’s victims. President Obama has been requested to do the same, but so far he would rather watch the damage accumulate and just blame Big Business, Big Oil, capitalism, or George Bush.
This is tragic. No, it is more than tragic.
I received what follows from a very good friend who, it just so happens, is an environmental engineer. It is more than thought provoking. Pay particular attention to the second and third paragraphs. Read more
Last week, finally, President Obama decided to hold a press conference about the BP oil spill. Contained within his prepared comments was what most expected…an assertion that part of the problem went back almost decade, thus implying that it was Bush’s fault. Certainly, he must have meant the Minerals Management Service (MMS) which has the authority over offshore drilling operations, so, I assumed that those in charge of MMS were Bush holdovers. Read more
This afternoon the president gave a press conference concerning the administration’s response to the BP oil spill. Were the president my client, he would have been “fired” on the spot, and here’s why.