The federal government deserves the criticism coming its way after BP’s oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Pardon the Anglophobia, but the British aren’t among those who have any room to criticize.
What the federal government has done wrong — starting long before the April 20 oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers — keeps growing. Lax oversight and conflicts of interest at the federal agency that regulates the industry not withstanding, President Barack Obama’s moratorium on the drilling appears to be the real long-term harm coming from Washington.
In typical political fashion — looking to the next election — the Obama administration slapped a six-month ban on drilling in the Gulf. The ban sends Louisiana’s most lucrative industry into a death spiral, political leaders there warned last week. “They contend that drilling is safe overall and that the moratorium is a knee-jerk reaction, akin to grounding every airplane in America because of a single crash,” The Associated Press reported.
The oil spill crippled fishing in the region. Tourism is getting hammered. Together, those two industries account for $10 billion — about 5 percent — of Louisiana’s $210 billion economy. Obama responded by shutting down another third of the state’s economy.
Trying to reverse what first looked like environmental heresy and then aloofness to an unprecedented tragedy, Obama temporarily froze Louisiana’s most important industry. Energy contributes $65 billion to the state’s economy, AP reported. But the explosion came just days after Obama said he would open the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf for exploration, analysis, leasing and drilling.
Obama’s announcement on lifting the offshore ban drew massive criticism from those in the green movement who oppose any use of fossil fuels. A public that doesn’t understand what happened on the oil rig or why BP has been unable to stop the leak only wants someone to blame, and Obama obliged.
The administration also received flak for the cozy relationship between the oil industry and the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service. Critics piled on about Obama’s lack of emotion in the immediate aftermath of the explosion.
Apparently unable to feel the region’s pain ala Bill Clinton, Obama has gone the cowboy George W. Bush route, saying he wanted to “know whose ass to kick.” Obama also imposed the moratorium. Walk tough and swing away with a big stick, Mr. President.
Obama understandably locked in on BP. He won’t find many critics of his choice. The oil giant has made disliking it easy work. BP has managed to mishandle every step of the way following the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. The greens have spread mistrust of BP to the entire oil industry.
Louisiana leaders began last week trying to undo some of the real damage that the perceived problems are causing. British leaders are protesting the damage done — particularly by the American president — to their iconic corporate giant.
The oil giant’s mess having become synonymous with the oil industry — BP bad, big oil bad — shouldn’t surprise anyone. Politicians along the Gulf Coast contributed to that, joining in the early criticism of BP. Still, it’s not hard to empathize with those in the affected states.
What’s hard is being moved by the British concerns. BP’s stock has plummeted as the American media and the American president have piled on to the missteps BP chief executive Tony Hayworth has made. BP has launched a campaign to restore its image, but we’ve seen how this company “cares.” Lima got its own sampling of the way BP conducts business, having suffered through the almost-closure of a profitable refinery as the London giant tried in the mid- and late 1990s to drive gas prices higher.
Still, pensioners relying on BP’s well-being don’t deserve the wrath of a nation. Tens of thousands of BP employees worldwide didn’t cause the mess in the Gulf. Stockholders, whether directly or through 401(k) funds they don’t even know they hold, deserve intelligent explanations of what is happening, not the president prattling on all tough guy-like.
Still, the British won’t find relief over here anytime soon. Eleven workers were killed, and the oil spill is still causing untold damage to the American Gulf Coast. The British really aren’t the ones getting the raw deal here.