Fri. Jun 18, 2010
Apologies And Shakedowns
In purely political terms, President Obama was taking a beating on his administration’s response to the Gulf oil spill, especially after his speech Tuesday night. Until the first Republican opened his mouth at the House hearings yesterday.
Thursday morning I’m watching CNN with my mom before I head to the train station for the trip home, when this guy I’ve never seen before opens his mouth and says the most incredible thing: “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown […] So I’m only speaking for myself. I’m not speaking for anybody else, but I apologize.”
Well, it was Representative Joe Barton, (R-BP), um, I mean (R-TX). As if that’s not scary enough, he’s the ranking Republican on the House Energy & Commerce Committee. If Republicans win the House this fall, he’s The Guy on this beat next year.
In fact, his comments raised such a ruckus that not only were Democrats condemning him, his fellow Republicans threatened him with removal from that committee if he didn’t apologize. So, we got one of those non-apology apologies, which ends “And if anything I have said this morning has been misconstrued in opposite effect, I want to apologize for that misconstrued — misconstruction”
Misconstrued? I watched it live, and he was very clear in his statement. Made steam come out of my ears. It was his clear inclination to fully french kiss Tony Hayward on national TV. In fact, I think, of all people, Rahm Emanuel nailed it:
“This wasn’t a P.R. gaffe. Joe Barton spoke from his heart. He believes BP is the wronged party.”
And it’s not just Barton. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) called it a shakedown on Wednesday. Or if you want to listen to House Republican leaders Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), it’s just Mother Nature’s way:
“The oil spill in the Gulf is this nation’s largest natural disaster…”
Natural disaster? Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster. The earthquake in Haiti was a natural disaster. But in this case, Mother Nature had all that oil bottled up tight under 8,000 feet of earth and 5,000 feet of water.
Until BP came along.
Then BP cut corners, they made a series of decisions that chose cost containment over well safety, they fired people who brought up safety concerns. And after the catastrophe, their response has been chaotic, and they’ve done their best to block media access whenever they can.
The evidence continues to mount, and I personally still don’t think we’ve heard the worst. But it seems clear BP is the primary culprit here, the author of this bad novel.
To be sure, there’s more blame to go around. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) appears to have operated for some time in a very slack and possibly corrupt manner. The Obama administration seems wrapped up in their own red tape at times.
And then there’s you and me. We, quite literally, drive the demand for this oil. Every day.
If the Deepwater Horizon well has been leaking oil at 60,000 barrels per day for 60 days, that’s 3,600,000 barrels from this pollution geyser. Well, in 2007, US oil consumption was 20,680,000 barrels per day.
In other words, the horrible amount of oil now in the Gulf is about one-sixth of what we burn in the US … every … single … day.
Has anything of import been done to change that? Ever? Until we face that fact, we’re likely doomed to see this happen again. And we haven’t even seen the worst case scenario yet.
So be sure to save some blame to spread around, but BP deserves the major share. Not an apology.