Libertarian Hawk


Obama’s Three Mile Island

June 02, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Environmentalism

Deepwater Horizon Drill Rig
Image by SkyTruth via Flickr

Deepwater Horizon is not Obama’s Katrina, because Katrina was not Bush’s.

The Katrina hurricane should have been addressed by state and local governments and residents who didn’t evacuate despite warnings of the impending storm.

Similarly, the Gulf spill should be dealt with by the company that caused it and has the best understanding of how to end it, British Petroleum.  The federal government’s role should be to adjudicate claims against BP.

Of course Obama and every liberal on the planet have been hollering for years that Bush was personally responsible for the Katrina-induced death of every man, woman, and crawfish in New Orleans.

Conservatives’ longstanding wish that liberals please stop trying to put the government in charge of everything recently prompted Frank Rich to sneer, “The only good news from the oil spill is that when catastrophe strikes, even some hard-line conservatives, like Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, start begging for the federal government to act, and act big.”

Rich’s solution is nonetheless preferable to two other New York Times columnists’ strategy for Obama, which is: to cry.

Maureen Dowd counsels Obama to offer President Clinton a job: “Bill would certainly know how to gush at a gusher gone haywire.  Let him resume a cameo role as Feeler in Chief.”  Tom Friedman, in his column “Malia for President,” advises that “the most important thing Mr. Obama can do is react to this spill as a child would.”

It should go without saying that the spill is not Bush’s Katrina II, notwithstanding claims by Nancy Pelosi and Chris Dodd.

Given the role the federal government has historically adopted, and the Obama administration has claimed, in preventing and dealing with large-scale industrial disasters such as the BP spill, the incompetence and radical environmentalist ideology of this administration have only exacerbated the crisis.

In a special investigation, AP reported that the federal Minerals Management Service, responsible for overseeing oil rig safety, failed to adequately respond to AP’s Freedom of Information Act request for copies of the agency’s inspection reports over the past several years.  MMS provided reports for only January, February, and April 2010; inspectors were revealed to have spent no more than two hours examining the rig during each visit; and the agency had inexplicably whited out sections of the reports.  AP also found that in 2009 MMS awarded Deep Horizon a safety award.

The Obama administration took a week after the explosion to announce an inquiry into the cause.  The same day, the Interior Department “point person” assigned to the incident left town on a work trip that included rafting in the Grand Canyon.  Meanwhile, Homeland Security was busy denying that the Defense Department was involved in addressing the crisis, then backtracking and claiming that Defense had been there since the day of the explosion.

Michael Barone argues that the public views the spill as reflecting poorly on the administration’s competence, rather than its ideology.  Peggy Noonan calls the oil spill a “political disaster” for Obama and labels it an “unforced error” that was “shaped by the president’s political judgment and instincts.”

A good part of Obama’s judgment and instincts relate to his environmentalist ideology, which places the needs of caribou, fussy Democratic Senators with pristine oceanfront views, and other lowly creatures over those of everyday Americans.

As Charles Krauthammer asks, “Why were we drilling in 5,000 feet of water in the first place?”  His answer: “Environmental chic has driven us out there…  [W]e go deep (1,000 feet and more) and ultra deep (5,000 feet and more), in part because environmentalists have succeeded in rendering the Pacific and nearly all the Atlantic coast off-limits to oil production…  [I]n the safest of all places, on land, we’ve had a 30-year ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

After the spill, while BP was spraying the dispersant Corexit to prevent oil from spreading, the Environmental Protection Agency butted in and told BP it had 24 hours to replace Corexit with another, less toxic dispersant from a list of EPA-approved dispersants, or else provide documentation on why the other dispersants on the list didn’t meet BP’s requirements.  BP responded by tactfully noting that none of the dispersants on the EPA’s list met the toxicity and effectiveness criteria the EPA expected BP to live up to, and concluded that it would continue to use Corexit, the dispersant most readily available to it.

Obama flew gaggles of lawyers, EPA officials, and environmentalists to Florida in the weeks following the Gulf tragedy, which shows where his priorities lay: not in rapidly and effectively solving the crisis, but in preventing federal liability claims, ensuring compliance with executive rulings upholding green dogma, and using the event as a PR opportunity to ban future drilling.  As Noonan writes, “When your most creative thoughts in the middle of a disaster revolve around protecting your position, you are summoning trouble.”

Although the leakage of radioactive gases at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania in 1979 yielded no casualties or even detrimental health effects, the accident helped pave the way for a moratorium on building new plants in the United States for the next 30 years.  This, despite the fact that “eco-friendly” countries like France, Sweden, and Switzerland all get more than twice as high a percentage of their power from nuclear sources as the U.S.—80% in France’s case.

The Gulf oil spill isn’t Obama’s Katrina—it’s more like his Three Mile Island: a rare but inevitable accident, an unavoidable byproduct of an essential method of power production, and an incident used by a far-left administration to phase out an entire category of energy production in the hopes of scaling back industrial civilization as we know it.

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Obama: There Since Cinco de Cuatro!

May 07, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Environmentalism

Deepwater Horizon Fire - April 21, 2010
Image by SkyTruth via Flickr

I’ve got it—an excuse the Obama administration can use to explain why it waited so long to take substantive action in dealing with the Gulf oil spill, an account that also manages to stick it to George W. Bush: Obama was so busy cleaning up Bush’s messes that he didn’t have time to clean up the mess in the Gulf!

The timeline of events since the explosion of the British Petroleum-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20 reveals a less than flattering picture of the acuity and alacrity of the government in fulfilling its role in handling the crisis.

Three days after the explosion, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted to reporters that the catastrophe would not affect the President’s plans to open several microscopic pockets of our vast offshore oil reserves for drilling, the only reassuring result of this debacle.

It is important to understand that in Obama WhiteHouseSpeak, Gibbs’ statement is tantamount to announcing, “It’s a teeny-tiny spark that’ll be put out by morning, and we’re not remotely worried about it.  Why bow over spilt milk?”  The administration that popularized the saying “Never let a serious crisis go to waste” and would love any excuse to backtrack on its recent Democrat-infuriating promise to minimally expand drilling would not have let the opportunity to renege on its promise go by if it had truly apprehended the full extent of the impending disaster.

True, the first Deep Horizon oil leaks were not discovered until the next day, after the Coast Guard had called off its search operation for the missing rig workers.  Yet somehow it took until the following Tuesday, a full week after the explosion, for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to announce that he would be launching an investigation into the incident.

One might wonder whether the department had fully grasped the enormity of the situation even then, given that on the same day, Salazar’s chief of staff, Tom Strickland—whom Salazar had assigned to be the “point person” on this issue—set off with his wife for a three-day “work-focused” trip to the Grand Canyon that apparently included a day of “work-focused” rafting.

Days later, when the potential danger of the spreading oil spill was beginning to dawn on department staff, the National Park Service rushed a helicopter to the 55th state to airlift Strickland out of the Canyon and whisk him off to New Orleans.

In the meantime, Homeland Security Secretary Janet “The System Worked” Napolitano, whose department was supposed to be working closely with the Interior Department to address the crisis, told reporters that the Defense Department had no involvement in addressing the spill: “If and when they have something to add, we’ll certainly make that known,” she snapped.

Just as Napolitano had changed her answer regarding the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing from “The system worked” to “The system didn’t work,” three days after her disavowal of Defense Department involvement in the cleanup she told “Meet the Press” that the Defense Department had been in the Gulf “from Day One.  This was a situation that was treated as a possible catastrophic failure from Day One.”  (The administration later flirted with the idea of claiming Napolitano had actually said “May One,” but then decided even they weren’t dishonest enough to pull that off.)

To reconcile her conflicting comments, a department spokesman claimed that in her latter statement, Napolitano had been referring to the presence of the Coast Guard, which had been in the Gulf since Day One.

Yes, the Coast Guard was very probably on the scene since Hour One, since that is their mission whenever such an accident happens at sea.  For Napolitano to claim that a search mission by the Coast Guard was equivalent to sending Defense Department resources to the area to deal with “a possible catastrophic failure” is like saying that flight attendants collecting trash from passengers on Northwest Flight 253 reflected the Transportation Security Administration’s initiative in helping stop underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

At least Obama is pointing the finger at BP for their role in the disaster—a potential conflict of interest, one might think, given the recent revelation that Obama is the federal candidate who has received the greatest amount in campaign contributions from the oil company over the past 20 years.

Normally I wouldn’t rag on Obama for failing to address the oil spill crisis sooner, but he brought it on himself when he parachuted into New Orleans as a newly elected Senator in 2005 to make a big show of mouthing off, Kanye West-style, about the incompetence of the Bush administration in dealing with the Katrina aftermath.  Obama stepped into this oil slick all by himself, so to speak.

To paraphrase two unfortunate Kanye West quotes: “BP, I’ma let you finish cleaning up the Gulf… But Barack Obama doesn’t care about Louisiana jumbo shrimpers!”

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