Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Oil Spill Obama Incompetence

The U.S. Government needed, and still needs, to aggressively step in and clean up the Gulf; to aggressively step in and protect the Gulf Coast, i.e. to step in and aggressively protect the sovereign territory of the United States, i.e. to step in and aggressively protect American citizens whose livelihoods are threatened, and who are facing potential pain and suffering which the United States Government could either lessen or eliminate. Government inaction and incompetence is assuring that this oil spill becomes the greatest ecological disaster to ever befall the United States of America.

Rather than bringing all the resources of the United States Government to bear upon the problems of clean up and protection of the Gulf Coast, President Obama has allowed BP to take the lead in cleaning up the spilled oil.


First, could it be that President Obama is reticent to spend money to protect both U.S. citizens and sovereign U.S. territory? Is Pres. Obama only interested in spending money on bribes to unions (taxpayer money which is laundered through unions and then spent to elect Democrats?)? in spending patronage money via the Trillion $ Spendulus?

Is President Obama reticent to spend money to protect Red States? Is Pres. Obama only interested in spending money on blue states, purple states, and illegal immigrants who will be future voters? I don't know this answer. I've wanted to discount this possibility. However, the more I look at it: it can't be fully discounted. It's possible. Barack Obama is a cynical, cynical man who is steeped in Chicago power politics. That's where Pres. Obama's statement to a Repub Congressman: "We won", came from. "We won", and now we get to rob the taxpayers and patronize our people. That's what Barack Obama thinks governing is about. I want to say Chicago power politics thinking is not in play in this oil spill, but cannot. It's possible.

Second, could it be that President Obama is massively incompetent? a deer frozen in the headlights? a ditherer? a slave to rules and regulation who has neither the know how nor the cojones to cut through bureaucratic red tape? an actor who is mainly interested in how to best divert blame, in how best to use self righteous anger and posturing in order to best position his re-election chances?

You would think most anyone would intuit the problems with allowing BP to run the clean up and protection of the coast:
-- corporate CEO's tend to be nearsighted, i.e. more interested in short term public relations than in working problems with an eye towards long term solutions. A company with this interest will be powerfully tempted to lie all along the way (and, in fact, BP has lied all along the way - and the WH has consistently lied, also*).
-- in the matter of clean up and protection of the coast, BP doesn't have the resources of the United States Government.

You would think most anyone would intuit these factors in the equation, yet Pres. Obama apparently did not. If President Obama wants to kick someone's ass, he can start with his own.

What's happening is horrifying, and oil on beaches is not even near the worst of it - not even close to the worst of it.

The worst of it is the damage to the ecosystem of the Gulf itself, including the related problem of killing off the Gulf fishing industry.

The second worst of it is the 6 month moratorium on drilling which Pres. Obama wants to implement. Do you think oil companies can twiddle their thumbs for 6 months? NO! Oil companies will pull their people and their money and their expertise and begin drilling in other parts of the world. And they will not, can not come back to the Gulf easily and quickly. Drilling in the Gulf will be negatively affected for a decade - even longer if Pres. Obama is re-elected. It will be economic devastation for residents of the Gulf States who are in the oil industry - and that amounts, at minimum, to multiple tens of thousands of people, and hundreds of thousands of family members. This amounts to an unforced error by Pres. Obama. His action is clueless and reprehensible.

The third worst of it is the destruction of the wetlands of Louisiana. I've been in South Louisiana many times, and have met and seen many Louisianans who make their living as private fishermen who operate mainly in those wetlands. These are not formally educated people. They don't work for companies, and would rather die than work for companies. Think of them as frontiersmen, as hunters and trappers, and what they hunt and trap is game and fish which is deep inside those wetlands. I mourn for these people. There are a lot of them. You don't need a job in South Louisiana. Everything your family needs is in the wetlands and deep in the bayous: food, plus extra fish which may be sold in order to purchase staples and such. If you're willing and able to manage the bugs and the snakes, you can provide for your family. Barack Obama's inaction is threatening these families' livelihoods.

However, also, and worse on a larger scale: damage to the Louisiana wetlands affects all of us - especially those of us in the southern United States. Those wetlands nurture wildlife and aquatic life and plant life which we all depend on. Barack Obama's inaction thus threatens citizens of the entire southern United States - which citizens, btw, live in deeply Red States. Again, is Pres. Obama's inaction a coincidence? But this is digression, and I don't actually purport to know the answer to the question. It does worry.

Media is infatuated with oil on the beaches. Such is an easy story. However, the significance of oil on the beaches falls somewhere after all of what is listed above.

What should be done?

The United States Government must take over the clean up and protection operation, effective immediately, must bring our massive resources to bear upon the problem. Send the bill to BP, get reimbursed for some of the bill from BP, and taxpayers bear the rest of the burden. This is exactly the type situation for which government exists. It is beyond irony that Barack Obama, i.e. the biggest big government advocate ever, is punting this clear government responsibility to BP.

Specifically, attack the clean up and coastal protection on multiple fronts.

Use government resources and personnel to canvass ideas from other nations; from all oil companies (including ideas re stopping the leak).

Bring in supertankers, as was done in the Persian Gulf in 2004, to skim scores of millions of gallons of oil/water out of Gulf and then dump it at Baton Rouge and Houston refineries. These will separate much of the oil from the water, then send newly empty supertankers out to collect more oil/water. Call in favors. Twist arms. Do what you have to do to collect supertankers from around the world. Cut through the red tape. This is the most important step, and would largely transform a crisis into a mere huge mess. This might still save us, if we begin immediately.

Do everything else. Do everything. The United States has the resources.

Build the sand berms between Louisiana's barrier islands. Despite the current supposed promise to build the berms, the berms remain a hazy dream. Red tape obstacles remain. Insufficient resources have been allocated.

Boom and burn. Also: buy this guy's oil boom!!!!!!! This type entrepreneurship is what made America great. Is the Obama Administration busily killing off greatness wherever it exists?

It's hay season. Send the hay into the gulf to absorb oil, then collect the hay.

Purchase all 50ish of Kevin Costner's brother's machines which can be deployed in the Gulf and which separate and collect oil from water on the spot. Get them out there in the gulf and let them work. Do it. We have a crisis. Why would you not do it?

Do everything. Take the lead. Get BP off the lead. They cannot be trusted. No oil company could be trusted with this problem. Further, BP does not have the resources of the U.S. Government.

Finally, I've left stopping the leak for the end:

BP, properly so, ought be in charge of stopping the leak. However, the White House ought ride herd on BP like a good Hollywood Producer rides herd on a movie director, like Warren Buffet rides herd on a company he owns, like a parent rides herd on their child who is swimming in a pool. Hire or borrow the most skilled oil industry people and get them into every single BP meeting during every hour of every day. BP is in charge, but BP must be in constant, incessant communication with a task force of our best oil industry thinkers (who are also constantly communicating with the best oil industry thinkers from around the world, and about every step BP is taking). Keep the White House intimately briefed and closely involved. The President will need to weigh in and twist arms and prod BP at various points along the way. Many such moments have already been missed by Pres. Obama. Get going.

Also, do whatever is necessary to induce BP to begin drilling a third relief well, and possibly a fourth. Relief wells are tricky, and can miss the mark and fail to stop the problem. The 1979 spill off of Yucatan required 4 relief wells and almost 12 months in order to solve the problem. Technology now is far too similar to technology then. BP's thinking is short sighted: is the thinking of accountants and of a weak CEO. It's in BP's interest to begin drilling a third (and even fourth) relief well. If BP won't be persuaded, threaten them, punish them, twist arms, call in political favors from England, bring in another oil company, do whatever is needed to ensure this problem is stopped in August or September, as opposed to Christmas.

This crisis, this situation, is the reason government exists. The irony of the U.S. Government punting to BP ... its difficult to process the hugeness of the irony, its difficult to process the hugeness of the incompetence, it's difficult to process the hugeness of the tragedy which government inaction is allowing to metastasize.

Consider, for instance: could the cutting of the riser during the Top Hat #2 effort have resulted in SIGNIFICANTLY worse leakage than before? Despite the alleged success of the top hat #2 effort, did the effort actually expand the disaster? Consider this: and this

*Remember when BP initially estimated the leak at 1000 barrels a day? This is knee jerk reaction of public relations novices who are practicing short sighted corporate management, plus bad citizenship. Bafflingly, the Obama White House knee jerk reaction was also to lie: remember "5000 barrels a day"? Remember the White House initial refusal to characterize the oil spill as an “Oil Spill of National Significance”? That declaration was necessary to draw full resources to the problem, and Napolitano didn't make it until almost a week after the incident. Thus, lying was also the knee jerk reaction of a novice and incompetent White House. Hot Air quotes Rolling Stone:
...the administration knew the spill could be far worse than its “best estimate” acknowledged. That same day, the president’s Flow Rate Technical Group – a team of scientists charged with establishing the gusher’s output – announced a new estimate of 12,000 to 25,000 barrels, based on calculations from video of the plume. In fact, according to interviews with team members and scientists familiar with its work, that figure represents the plume group’s minimum estimate. The upper range was not included in their report because scientists analyzing the flow were unable to reach a consensus on how bad it could be. “The upper bound from the plume group, if it had come out, is very high,” says Timothy Crone, a marine geophysicist at Columbia University who has consulted with the government’s team. “That’s why they had resistance internally. We’re talking 100,000 barrels a day."


Paul_In_Houston said...

I have little to argue with in this post, but, in my shortest post yet:

Or, how an engineer and a politician approaches a problem...

"Let's work the problem people."
(~NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz, during the Apollo 13 crisis - 1970)

"I want to know whose ass to kick!"
(~President Barack Hussein Obama, during the gulf oil spill - 2010)


gcotharn said...

Exactly! Your shortest post ever is better than my long post. Yours is the Gettysburg Address; mine is Edward Everett's 2 hour speech which immediately preceded.