For many Americans, the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill is nothing more than pictures and video streaming across a TV or computer screen. For the people living in the Gulf region, it is nothing short of catastrophic. While the rest of America is caught up in the politics, residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are concerned about real issues – like their collective future. Everyone following this event through the news has been treated to a plethora of details surrounding the spill and aftermath, much of it spun to the corresponding ideological slant of the source. Today, I’d like to look at the past 60 days and find the absolute truth buried beneath all the political grandstanding.
Week 1 – April 20 – 24, 2010
An explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, on April 20th. Two days later the rig sank, replaced by a rapidly spreading oil slick. On the third day, the Dutch government offered to help by using four pairs of skimmers to remove the oil from the water. Their offer was declined by the U.S. government because EPA regulations prohibit pumping water into the ocean that contains oil – no matter how little oil remains after the skimming process. These four pairs of skimmers would have removed 146,000 barrels per day of oil from the water. The flow rate of the spill is estimated at being between 35,000 – 60,000 barrels per day. In other words: Had the U.S. government accepted the Dutch offer on Day 3, the skimmers would have outpaced the spill, and prevented ALL DAMAGE to the Gulf Coast. President Obama spent these four days returning from a fundraiser in Los Angeles for embattled California Senator Barbara Boxer, traveling to New York City to speak on Wall Street reform, hosting an Earth Day event in the Rose Garden, and vacationing in Asheville, North Carolina over the weekend where he visited local restaurants, toured the Vanderbilt estate and went golfing twice.
Week 2 – April 25 – May 1, 2010
The oil continued to leak into the Gulf this week, as Obama returned from his vacation to host the New York Yankees at the White House. The president spent two-days touring the mid-west stumping on the economy, and returned to Washington in time for a DNC fundraiser on the 29th. April 29th would be the first time the oil spill returned to the president’s agenda since an April 22nd meeting with a dozen officials in the Oval Office. All politics and ideology aside, does anyone believe the U.S. President should ignore a severe environmental disaster in the Gulf for a solid week? Perhaps he did not realize the full extent of the spill – a potential justification for not accepting foreign aid in the Gulf. Obama named Thad Allen the national incident commander on Day 11. Those of us watching at home began seeing footage of oil bubbling up from the sunken rig, filling the ocean with thick, gooey tar. We also watched as the Coast Guard used controlled burns to remove oil from the water. I’ll bet that made a lot of environmentalists happy. If only they had oil skimmers that could remove 146,000 barrels per day.
Week 3 – May 2 – 8, 2010
The third week of this environmental crisis began with President Obama’s first trip to the Gulf – on Day 13. Anyone who has ever run a business or been in a leadership or management position can tell you that productivity improves when the boss shows up. Had Obama made the oil spill a priority right away, he could have set the tone in the Gulf that nothing short of 110% would be accepted as local officials geared up for the fallout. Instead, he made a quick visit to Louisiana on Sunday, and went back to the business of government – hosting the Navy football team, a private lunch with Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, a Cinco De Mayo party at the White House, Friday date night with Michelle, and a weekend golf trip.
This week saw the oil reach the Louisiana shoreline and liberal journalists clamor for an end to fossil-fuels – before the disaster is even contained. Talk began about regulations, and how the oil industry must be better regulated. Again, taking political ideology out of the equation, it is important to note that the oil industry is the most heavily regulated industry in the country. In fact, regulations are exactly why offshore drilling is taking place in mile-deep water, where problem-solving becomes far more difficult. It is much easier to operate in 500 feet of water, than 5,000.
Week 4 – May 9 – 15, 2010
By this point, it would be nice if the U.S. government would finally accept the Dutch offer to bring in skimmers, capable of reducing the amount of oil in the Gulf. BP has certainly mismanaged the clean-up effort. They deserve no sympathy here, and should be held fully responsible for the recovery efforts in the Gulf – period. However, by this point, it has become impossible for any sane observer to believe the government has handled this properly. Americans were waiting for their president – a president who believes government is the solution to many things – to stand up and take control. Americans were waiting for leadership – but they found none. Instead, Obama spent the week talking about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, golfing with Joe Biden, hosting a private reception for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, making a surprise visit to Duff’s in Buffalo for wings, and finally making a public speech on the oil spill – on DAY 25!
Week 5 – May 16 – 22, 2010
May 16th was Day 26 of the Gulf Oil Spill crisis. President Obama spent it golfing. I wonder how the people in the Gulf felt when they saw Obama touring a plant in Ohio this week, instead of making another trip down South? After all, it had been two weeks since he first set foot in the Gulf States. The President spent the rest of his week hosting a state dinner for Mexican President Calderon, and meeting with Bono – who also performed. We continued to watch oil spill on TV, and those in the Gulf began to realize how poorly this crisis was being managed by EVERYONE. Obama halted new offshore drilling leases, and said he would “not tolerate more finger pointing or irresponsibility,” while finger-pointing at the Mineral Management Service, BP, Halliburton and Transocean. When he was done, he spent the 22nd – Day 33 – shooting hoops at Fort McNair, and more golf.
Week 6 – May 23 – 29, 2010
I’m sorry, does that say “Week 6?” Are you kidding me? Six weeks?
This week Obama flew to San Francisco to do more fundraising for Barbara Boxer, which included a VIP dinner at the mansion of Gordon Getty – wealthy oil heir. Also this week, Obama talked basketball with Marv Albert, hosted an Asian-American event, hung out with the Duke Blue Devils and U.S. World Cup team, hosted a party for Jewish Americans and then headed to Chicago for a weekend vacation. Prior to his trip home, the President made his second trip to the Gulf on Day 39.
Thankfully, people were starting to wake up. James Carville, the staunch liberal, blasted Obama. “It just looks like he’s not involved in this,” said Carville. “He could’ve demanded a plan in anticipation of this.” Carville continued, “We’re about to die down here!” Even New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, a frequent liberal apologist, pointed to Obama’s lack of leadership. While Obama was raising money with an oil magnate and vacationing in Chicago, oil was seeping 12 miles into Louisana’s marshes. Meanwhile, Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection was ready to send absorbent boom, oil-skimming barges and a team of trained responders – but the U.S. government didn’t give them the green light.
Week 7 – May 30 – June 5, 2010
Ah, seven weeks into the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history. Feels like a good week to schmooze with Paul McCartney, and do some good old-fashioned Bush-bashing. After all, the Gulf Oil Spill, now on Day 44, is clearly Bush’s fault. The previous week, Obama said “From the moment this disaster began, the federal government has been in charge of the response effort,” and that “BP is operating at our direction.” Allegations swirl that workers were bused in for Obama’s third visit to the gulf, in seven weeks.
Making it clear that he was in charge, and to show true leadership in the face of crisis, Obama told the people of Grand Isle, “I can’t dive down there and plug the hole. I can’t suck it up with a straw.” Great. But you COULD accept the Dutch offer for oil skimmers, capable of removing 146,000 barrels a day of oil from the Gulf, right? Remember that offer? From DAY THREE? Obama did finally approve a portion of the sand-berm plan that Governor Bobby Jindal had been proposing for three weeks. Jindal and local officials had been pleading with the Army Corps of Engineers from May 11 until June 2, for permission to build 40 miles of sand berms along the barrier islands.
Week 8 – June 6 – 12, 2010
The eighth week of this disaster was centered on Barack Obama’s speech from the Oval Office. Many pundits weighed in on the speech, but there wasn’t much praise. The Associated Press published a fact-check article where they pointed out several flaws. Even liberal talk show hosts Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow blasted his speech as pointless, and ineffective. We now find out oil has made its way into the Gulf Stream, which could result in environmental damage to the east coast of the U.S. Those skimmers look pretty good now, especially in light of BP’s repeated failures at stopping the leak.
Obama has instituted a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling, which will undoubtedly result in higher gas prices across the nation, and a “second economic disaster for families, businesses and communities along the Gulf Coast,” according to Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Week 9 – June 13 – 19, 2010
The ninth week of this crisis is coming to a close as I write. Louisianans now say George W. Bush did a better job responding to Katrina, than Obama has done with the oil spill. Five days ago, Obama finally accepted the Dutch offer to help with oil skimmers – 53 days later. Lives have been lost. Jobs are gone. Hope is a distant memory. Wildlife is decimated. Tourism is dead. The Gulf economy is in peril. How are we spending this week? Politicizing the spill.
President Obama used this week to tout his Cap & Trade bill, which would increase taxes and fees on the American people to the tune of $1,761 per year. The Deepwater Horizon rig is still spewing oil into the Gulf, and Congress and the President are resorting to politics?
Political grandstanding isn’t going to fix any of these problems, yet that didn’t stop members of Congress from acting big and mighty for TV cameras, including Rep. Joseph Cao, who suggested suicide for BP executive, Lamar McKay.
This oil spill is the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history. So far, we’ve learned that Obama’s vision of a government big enough to solve every problem is bunk.
We’ve learned that regulations not only forced BP to drill in mile-deep waters, where recovery is proving extremely difficult, but it also prevented foreign aid from responding quickly to the spill. Regulations also caused the Coast Guard to stop “oil-sucking barges” for 24 hours, because they were missing a certificate of inspection for safety equipment.
We’ve learned that bureaucracies at every level, in government and in private industry, are useless.
We’ve learned that this government cares more about using this crisis to pass Cap & Trade legislation, than it does about taking a serious approach to stopping the leak, and preventing further damage to the Gulf States.
We’ve learned that if we accepted the Dutch offer on Day 3, oil would never have reached the shore.
Apparently, having no executive experience makes it very difficult for this President to be effective in times of crisis. Apparently, appointing scholars and campaign staffers to important positions in his administration, instead of qualified people with experience, isn’t the best way to prepare for challenges.
Obama compared the oil spill to 9-11. The difference: George Bush rose to the occasion and showed great LEADERSHIP through that crisis, as the American people faced unexpected consequences.
In 2010, our President would rather be golfing.