What Oil Leak Politics Says

June 18, 2010

By Chidem Kurdas

In the Obama administration’s script for passing around oil-spill blame, the drilling regulator Minerals Management Service shares the stage with chief villain BP. The disaster is said to have exposed the weakness of MMS, a problem the president has now tackled by appointing a new head for the agency.

One can understand why Mr. Obama wants to confine government failure to this little bureaucracy – long reported to be corrupt – inside the Interior Department. It is a slick move, but the hypocrisy is breathtaking and corrosive of what confidence there is in the government.

Just weeks before the Deepwater Horizon rig imploded, the entire administration and Congressional Democrats demonstrated casual disregard for the environment. In effect, they provided evidence that wheeling and dealing for the proposed climate change law creates risk of additional damage to the planet. 

This March Mr. Obama proposed to open to oil and gas drilling some 167 million acres of ocean along the East Coast. Whether this decision was right or wrong – to be sure there are pros and cons – what was striking was that the environmental effects were not even given serious thought. The decision was in the main a political move to get Republicans to agree to the administration’s climate and energy bill.

Here is what the president said, about two-and-a-half weeks before oil started to spill into the Gulf of Mexico: “It turns out, by the way, that oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.” This would be comical were the issue not dead serious. A 12-year-old with an internet connection could have found examples of oil rig leaks.

Let’s see.  A major policy change is underway. A cabinet-level decision with immense potential consequences. On a controversial matter. There’s plenty of time to investigate the environmental effects—-this is not a new issue, Mr. Obama talked about it during the campaign and early in his presidency. The drilling rule is a compromise to pass a huge regulatory overhaul ostensibly to protect the atmosphere. Yet the environmental impact of the policy appears as an afterthought, barely given consideration.

Clearly the object is to notch another massive regulatory expansion after the medical and financial behemoths. Climate change is the excuse—but in the attempt to do a political deal, the environment was obviously not a priority. With oil gushing from the broken rig, it became expedient to tout the climate bill as a solution.

Likely we will pay for greater environmental regulation and end up with greater environmental degradation!  But hey,  a bunch of government bureaucrats somewhere will get sex, drugs, gifts and consultancy jobs out of their new regulatory powers—that’s what some MMS employees were doing, according to investigators.

That agency’s problems apparently never even came up in discussions about opening more of the Eastern seaboard  to drilling. The concern expressed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was that MMS laxness reduced tax receipts from oil companies—not what it might do to beaches and pelicans.

These people are not stewards of the environment, their shrill protests notwithstanding. The only thing their climate bill can be is another boondoggle.

11 Responses to “What Oil Leak Politics Says”

  1. Paula Says:

    The problem is not the current or past administrations. The problem is us. Until we decrease our oil consumption our leaders have to figure out how to feed the monster.

    I think everyone should stop writing and talking about who did what and pay attention to what they do day by day.

  2. Susan Says:

    If it is true that BP was to endorse the house energy bill days before the spill, that might account for the lack of concern for the environment.

    Capturing carbon and taxing it will be a big financial windfall for the government and that is the priority. Of course that also means the taxpayer will carry the load since that cost will be passed on to the consumer that is already cash poor.

    Look the government is the ultimate gatekeeper. I hold them responsible for this spill since they had all the data indicating BP to be a shoddy operator. Isn’t it just so hypocritical of the committee grilling BP the other day admitting they knew about the lousy safety record? It is the thugs watching the thugs.

  3. emmi Says:

    I’m confused. Does this article provide an actual solution and I’m just not seeing it? How is the Climate Change bill a Boondoggle? Where’s the better idea, CSM? Does the GOP really have the nerve to say they are doing a better job than Obama?

    I agree about MMS, it’s terrible; Salazar needs to be replaced.

  4. Peter B. Baute Says:

    The whole catatrophe is a sad comment on our federal govenment, including the congress, the MMS, the President, and of course, BP. We need to be more vigilant as citizens, more environmentally conscious, and more critical of our lawmakers.

  5. concernedcitizen Says:

    Another “black gold” hungry president… Sounds familiar for some reason??


  6. […] seems, however, the federal government’s regulatory policy was and continues to be a mess, as Chidem points out. The moral outrage of the Congress and the Administration in view of their “gross negligence” […]

  7. chidemkurdas Says:

    Re providing “solution” — There’s no magic bullet, short of a surprise major technological breakthrough. Such things happen of course, but very rarely. One can’t rely on them.

    The thing about alternative energy sources is that at this stage they are not really viable. The federal government’s various interventions, for instance in favor of ethanol, have had bad side effects and cost taxpayers, without having a noticeable benefit except to those receiving subsidies.

  8. chidemkurdas Says:

    There is a long history of US presidents pushing for reduced oil dependency, I believe going back to Nixon and Carter. Then came the SUV craze. It seems to go in cycles.

  9. Cheryl P. Says:

    So now that the Democrats have started acting more like Republicans (in your view); they are the Devil? Where was this tirade for the Bush/Cheney deregulations that gave the oil companies CARTE BLANCHE? They have more culpability for setting the standard (or lack thereof!) Palin and hubby Todd, (who worked for BP) could have blown the whistle on BP’s oil leak in Alaska, but did they? NO! And why? Because Palin and Alaska are getting BP dividends! They care more about MONEY! If guilty of ANYTHING, President Obama is guilty of an act of omission, and for trusting the experts who may have told him that “they have worked out the problematic oil drilling concerns, and now it is safe!” Remember the good job Bush/Cheney did on convincing the Country that Saddam Hussein was hiding WMDs, when they KNEW it was not so? So, do you think people, even PRESIDENTS, CAN’T be MISLED? How arrogant of you to point the “poor stewardship” finger at the Democrats; there seems to be a full compliment of that ilk around!

  10. chidemkurdas Says:

    Whatever the culpability of previous administrations, this one has had more than a year and a half to figure things out. In fact Obama favored expanded offshore drilling long before the election. In any case, they’ve had plenty of time to consider the issue. This is their responsibility.

  11. chidemkurdas Says:

    What is more, Congressional Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi are on record in 2008 about the problems at Minerals Management Service. So this was known for more than two years, then a big cabinet-level decision is made to expand Eastern shoreline drilling without even looking into the potential environmental effects–as part of a deal to pass a climate bill ostensibly to protect the planet. The hypocrisy could not be more dramatic.


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