Free Markets, Free People

oil spill


Administration knew drilling moratorium would cost 23,000 jobs

In the middle of a recession, with joblessness hovering around the 10% mark, the Obama administration made a deliberate decision to impose a drilling moratorium knowing it would cost at least 23,000 jobs. Why?

Senior Obama administration officials concluded the federal moratorium on deepwater oil drilling would cost roughly 23,000 jobs, but went ahead with the ban because they didn’t trust the industry’s safety equipment and the government’s own inspection process, according to previously undisclosed documents.

Never mind the fact that an event like this had never happened before in deep water.   Never mind there were hundreds of deepwater wells functioning properly and well.  Never mind that those jobs were well paying jobs  and that through their elimination would cause ripple-effect unemployment down the supply chain.

Instead, deliberately trash the lives of 23,000 workers – and their families – because of unfounded fears.

Yeah, that’s leadership, isn’t it?

Asked to comment, a White House spokesman said the administration "well understood, and understands, the enormous importance of oil and gas to the region’s economy," but the potential economic risks from another spill to other elements of the Gulf economy—such as fishing and tourism—also informed the administration’s deliberations, "especially as spill-response resources were fully engaged to address the BP Deepwater Horizon spill."

What “potential economic risk”?  What was the “potential” for another such freakish accident?  Well the history of deepwater drilling says not very high at all.  And while I have some sympathy with the “our spill-response resources were fully engaged”, there were certainly ways to ensure that other operations were safe and following approved drilling procedures.

You know, like put freakin’ inspectors on the deepwater drilling rigs full time to ensure those procedures were followed to the letter.  Yeah, a bit of an imposition on the inspectors, but it would have saved 23,000 jobs.  So you tell them to suck it up or you’ll find someone who will.

Wondering: do these jobs go in the negative column of the jobs “created and saved” the Obama administration?

~McQ

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Administration oil spill report requires a willing suspension of disbelief?

That’s what the GOP says.  For example:

Billy Nungesser, president of New Orleans’ Plaquemines Parish, sensed that a chart showing 140 oil skimmers at work — a chart given to him by BP and the Coast Guard — was “somewhat inaccurate.”

So, Nungesser asked to fly over the spill to verify the number. The flyover was cancelled three times before those officials admitted that just 31 of the 140 skimmers were actually deployed.

I guess some will be surprised by that.  But, in fact, the government is in the positive spin business when it comes to self-reporting on the job it is doing – for anything.  That’s why whenever something is announced or explained, skepticism – of the highest degree – should be exercised by the target audience.

In Nungesser’s case, he obviously knew that as ineffectual as the effort had been in his area, there couldn’t possibly be 140 skimmers deployed.  And, of course, he was right.

Rep Darrel Issa (R-CA) has become a bit of a thorn in the administration’s side over its response to the spill.  As ranking member of the House’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he’s taken it upon himself to have the various administration claims investigated.  The result?  Not so hot:

Committee staff has discovered the following based upon witness interviews and documents provided by federal and state entities:

• Officials on the ground dispute key White House assertions about the number and timeliness of assets deployed in the Gulf. Local officials describe White House outreach efforts as more focused on stopping bad press than on addressing the disaster at hand;

• The White House’s assurances that there are adequate resources are at odds with the reality on the ground, where those on the frontline of the spill express significant frustration over the lack of assets. Local complaints are supported by the fact that the White House waited until Day 70 of the oil spill to accept critical offers of international assistance. Local workers and boats could have been assisting more with the clean-up if the Federal government had provided them with needed supplies and equipment;

• While the White House has tried to use the delay in finding a visible leak to explain its early silence on the oil spill, Transocean officials and Coast Guard documents from the scene of the oil spill reveal clear and early indications of a substantial oil leak days earlier than White House accounts;

• The failure of Administration officials to quickly waive laws preventing necessary foreign assets from reaching the Gulf and other regulations are hampering efforts to clean-up and limit damage from the oil spill. Local officials feel the federal government is making the perfect the enemy of the good in cleanup efforts;

• Local officials strongly dispute President Obama’s insistence that the federal government – and not BP – has been in control since day one. One Coast Guard Admiral told congressional investigators that decisions on the ground are made through a “consensus-based” process with BP. In practice, the Federal Government is not in charge of oil spill response efforts through a command-and-control approach;

• Local officials strongly believe the President’s call for a drilling moratorium will significantly compound the economic damage caused by the oil spill and will actually increase risk associated with future offshore drilling projects.

Shorter: The federal effort has not been nor is it now anything like what it has been cracked up to be by the administration’s spin.  In fact, it’s been pretty pitiful.

But I think Rear Adm.  Jim Watson probably says it best:

Rear Admiral Jim Watson, the senior-most official at the Unified Area Command in Robert, LA, also gave a different account of events on the ground. In a June 14, 2010, briefing to Chairman Towns, Ranking Member Issa, and staff, Watson stated that his command structure is decidedly different than what has been described by the White House. According to Watson, “It is not a war-fighting command and control structure where the Federal government is sending orders to BP. Rather the process on the ground with BP and others is “consensus-based,” where higher-raking officials inject themselves to resolve differences of opinion. In his view, “The framework probably isn’t up to the task.”

Ya think?!  Day 74 and still, no one is in charge. 

Where’s the freakin’ outrage? 

~McQ


It took 70 days to accept foreign help on the oil spill?

Why?

Really – I want to know.  Why did the “we’ve been on the job since day one” crowd take 70 more days to decide they should accept some offers of help that began coming in within 3 days of the spill.

(Via Hot Air):

The National Incident Command and the Federal On Scene Coordinator have determined that there is a resource need for boom and skimmers that can be met by offers of assistance from foreign governments and international bodies.

The United States will accept 22 offers of assistance from 12 countries and international bodies, including two high speed skimmers and fire containment boom from Japan. We are currently working out the particular modalities of delivering the offered assistance. Further details will be forthcoming once these arrangements are complete…

The Department has released a chart of offers of assistance that the U.S. has received from other governments and international bodies. The chart is updated as necessary to include any additional offers of assistance and decisions on accepting the offers.

The chart shows a good number of more offers still under “consideration”.

Why?

Why isn’t that equipment and technology already here and deployed?

What is going on with the “day one” crowd?  Why are we still screwing around deciding what offers should or shouldn’t be accepted?

Meanwhile, the red tape continues to stymie efforts to clean up the spill.

Freakin’ amazing.

This vid sort of sums it all up.

Oil Spill Timeline from RightChange on Vimeo.

~McQ


Meanwhile, back in the Gulf, chaos still reigns

If there is a unified and coordinated effort in the Gulf, few people have apparently witnessed it. You know the travails of Louisiana – skimmer barges shut down for fire extinguisher and life vest inspections. Barrier island construction shut down because a federal agency wants them moved 2 miles further out.

In Alabama, Gov. Bob Riley says everything is being done “by committee” and no one is in charge while every agency seems to have absolute veto power. High water booms he’d requested specifically for the AL coast were finally found and before they could be deployed were inexplicably moved elsewhere.

Now comes the turn of Mississippi. Oil is headed for the beaches and as one critic says, it just doesn’t have to happen. Rep Gene Taylor got off of a flight over the area angry:

“It’s criminal what’s going on out there,” Taylor said minutes later. “This doesn’t have to happen.” A scientist onboard, Mike Carron with the Northern Gulf Institute, said with this scenario, there will be oil on the beaches of the mainland.

“There’s oil in the Sound and there was no skimming,” Carron said. “No coordinated effort.”

He’s right – it doesn’t have to happen. We’ve been told ad nauseum that the federal government has the containment situation in hand having been on the job since “day one”. Obviously that’s fiction. After a couple of trips to shore up his image, President Obama is back to the routine of golf vs. crisis management.

But Mississippi apparently is going to suffer the same fate as Louisiana and Alabama. No booms, no skimmer, no coordinated effort.

There were dozens of boats of all sizes running around, some leaving trails through the sheen. Two boats among a group near Ship Island were pulling boom in a line, but not using it to round up oil. That was at 10 a.m.

Taylor slipped a note to a fellow passenger.

It said: “I’m having a Katrina flashback. I haven’t seen this much stupidity, wasted effort, money and wasted resources, since then.”

Back on land in Gulfport, Taylor let loose.

“A lot of people are getting paid to say, ‘Look! There’s oil’ and not doing anything about it,” Taylor said. “There shouldn’t be a drop of oil in the Sound. There are enough boats running around.

“Nobody’s in charge,” Taylor said. “Everybody’s in charge, so no one’s in charge.

“If the president can’t find anyone who can do this job,” he said, “let me do it.”

Taylor, for those who are wondering, is a Democrat.

The administration likes to refer to the oil leak as a “man-caused disaster”.

So far the administration’s efforts at containment, well into 60 days now, has been as much of a man-caused disaster as the leak. And, as Rep. Taylor notes, it doesn’t have to be that way.

~McQ


Obama Orders Louisiana To Halt Berm-Building

I’m beginning to think that the comparisons of Obama’s management of the oil spill to how Hurricane Katrina was handled are completely inapt. In reality, it looks more like the Obama administration should be compared to the storm itself.

Louisiana has been busily building berms about a mile out from the coast to halt the infiltration of oil into its sensitive marshes, wetlands and prime fishing areas. This process was greatly delayed by federal red tape, and now that the state has permits in hand it’s being order to stop because, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, it’s doing it wrong:

The federal government is shutting down the dredging that was being done to create protective sand berms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The berms are meant to protect the Louisiana coastline from oil. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has concerns about the dredging is being done.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who was one of the most vocal advocates of the dredging plan, has sent a letter to President Barack Obama, pleading for the work to continue.

[...]

Nungesser has asked for the dredging to continue for the next seven days, the amount of time it would take to move the dredging operations two miles and out resume work.

Work is scheduled to halt at midnight Wednesday.

Pat Austin is trying to understand the federal obstruction, but finds that political reasoning is the only thing that makes sense of it all:

I’m trying to see both sides here; I’m trying to understand the “coastal scientists” who contend that the berms will “change tidal patterns” and lead to more long term erosion of the islands, but if the islands are killed off by the oil what difference does it make? To borrow from Greta Perry’s analogy, if my house is on fire, what does it matter what room I try to extinguish first? It’s all doing down.

[...]

It seems that the feds are doing everything they can to cripple Louisiana’s own response to this crisis. Bobby Jindal reached his exasperation point long ago when he said, and I’m paraphrasing, If you’re not going to fix it, get out of the way and let us do it ourselves! From the moratorium, and Salazar’s promise to appeal the strike down of that moratorium, to the crazy red tape on the berm projects, to shutting down the skimmer barges for 24 hours, and now this?

Well, we could get the idea that Team Obama was trying to neutralize Jindal’s response, as if he were threatened by Bobby Jindal, or something.

For Billy Nungesser part, he isn’t taking this lying down. He fired off a letter to Obama demanding to be allowed to move forward with the coast-saving project … or else:

Plaquemines parish president Billy Nungesser is furious, drawing a line in the sand with the White House!

[...]

Nungesser is targeting President Obama as the only hope for continuing the work. In harsh letter he spelled out an option.

“Don’t shut us down, let us lay the pipe three miles out and then let us move the dredge so we will be down less than a day and we’ll refill the hole,” Nungesser said.

He also issued a threat to the President in the letter if he didn’t do something to help.

“It says if it shuts down, I’ll be on Anderson Cooper at nine…and it won’t be pretty.”

Nungesser also pushed Jindal to, in effect, damn the torpedoes and move full speed ahead:

“I asked the governor to let me stay out there tonight on the dredge, let em come out there and take the permit away.

Tell them the radio not working. We’ll smash it with a hammer.”

I’m actually a little surprised that Jindal hasn’t already taken this approach, citing exigent circumstances and daring Obama to shut him down.

Stepping back for a moment, does anyone else see the connection between the Arizona (and others) illegal immigration law, Gen. McChrystal’s insubordination, and Louisiana’s current predicament? Lacking any coherent direction, policy or plan, these people and entities are forced to take the reins over their particular situations only to be hindered by the Obama administration when they do, or worse, vilified and ridiculed. The lack of leadership creates a vacuum, and people like Jan Brewer, Gen. McChrystal, Bobby Jindal and Billy Nungesser are trying desperately to fill it. If there were ever a clear indication that Obama is an incompetent leader, this it.


Feds shut down Louisiana dredging operation – after approving it

Yessir – we have a unified plan and it is being executed to perfection to contain the Gulf oil spill.

Or not:

The federal government is shutting down the dredging that was being done to create protective sand berms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The berms are meant to protect the Louisiana coastline from oil. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has concerns about where the dredging is being done.

The Army Corps of Engineers issued permits to build the berms (and President Obama had 360 million allocated for that construction) which are now almost complete. The Fish and Wildlife Department, however, has now pulled those permits and told the state it must move the operation two miles further offshore to satisfy their concerns.

As you might imagine, that’s not made the president of the parish involved in the construction of the berms very happy:

“Once again, our government resource agencies, which are intended to protect us, are now leaving us vulnerable to the destruction of our coastline and marshes by the impending oil,” Nungesser wrote to Obama. “Furthermore, with the threat of hurricanes or tropical storms, we are being put at an increased risk for devastation to our area from the intrusion of oil.”

Nungesser has called Adm. Allen, BP and the White House trying to get the order lifted. None have responded to his calls. I have no idea what BP could do – it’s a federal thing – but I guess he figures maybe they could apply some pressure.

Nungesser’s letter includes an emotional plea to the president. “Please don’t let them shut this dredge down,” he wrote. “This requires your immediate attention!”

Sorry he has a general to fire, something, which thankfully for the administration, has taken the spill off the front pages.

And they wonder why people keep calling the federal effort “chaos” and continue to try to figure out who, if anyone, is in charge.

~McQ


Inspections for fire extinguishers take precedence over stopping the oil from reaching shore

Bobby Jindal is fit to be tied. The governor of Louisiana has had to essentially ignore the federal government and order sandbags lifted and dropped between barrier islands in an attempt to keep the oil away for the the state’s marshlands.

He also got tired of waiting on others to skim the oil that has gotten through the barriers and so he deployed barges that suck up oil. But the Coast Guard had other ideas. They ordered the barges to “cease and desist”.

Why?

The Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.

This is the type of stupidity for which federal leadership is being questioned. The sort of inflexible bureaucracy that can’t seem to put the oil emergency in perspective, give it priority and work around doing what it thinks it needs to do while allowing the barges to continue their work. Another example is the Corps of Engineers red tape that has delayed the construction of man made barrier islands off Louisiana’s coast.

Understandably, Jindal is frustrated about the barges (a governor cannot overrule the Coast Guard).

“They promised us they were going to get it done as quickly as possible,” he said. But “every time you talk to someone different at the Coast Guard, you get a different answer.”

After 24 hours of constant pushing by Jindal (displaying leadership and trying to get the job done), the barges were finally released to get back to work. There was no reason for the delay, and certainly a work around could have been done to allow the barges to keep working. And Louisiana isn’t the only state having problems:

In Alabama today, Gov. Bob Riley said that he’s had problems with the Coast Guard, too. Riley, R-Ala., asked the Coast Guard to find ocean boom tall enough to handle strong waves and protect his shoreline. The Coast Guard went all the way to Bahrain to find it, but when it came time to deploy it? “It was picked up and moved to Louisiana,” Riley said today. The governor said the problem is there’s still no single person giving a “yes” or “no.” While the Gulf Coast governors have developed plans with the Coast Guard’s command center in the Gulf, things begin to shift when other agencies start weighing in, like the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It’s like this huge committee down there,” Riley said, “and every decision that we try to implement, any one person on that committee has absolute veto power.”

For those of you still wondering why the leadership of the administration is being questioned as it pertains to this crisis, these are the sorts of examples that are apparently daily fare down there. They are why the effort has been called uncoordinated and “chaotic”. And they’re not because of BP.

They are also why you’re beginning to hear a lot more frustration expressed by those impacted by the chaos.

Leadership means taking charge, not managing by committee as Gov. Riley observes is the case he discusses. It also means cutting through the bureaucratic crap that often impedes efforts in a crisis – just as it is doing now in the Gulf.

If it is still unclear why people are charging lack of leadership, these incidents should help illustrate the problem.

~McQ


The latest "crisis" speech

In a word, unimpressive.

Now there are those who are going to say that this man could say nothing that would impress me. Not true. He could say I’m resigning for the good of the country and I’d be mightily impressed. Mainly because that would be the right thing to do and I’d respect that.

However, that’s not his choice. Instead he gave an uninspired speech with a few falsehoods and a few mixed messages.

Primarily it did absolutely nothing to ease my mind or calm my fears that there is any coherent plan in place. In fact, if you review the so-called “response”, it has three components.

1. Continue to try to clean up. We got a lot of statistics and a lot of claims, but essentially oil is still washing up on the shore.

2. Make BP pay. Of course that’s been the plan since the beginning.

3. Appoint lots of commissions. Ray Mabus will form one to develop a “long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan” as quickly as possible. And Obama claims to have established a “National Commission” to “offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place.”

And that’s pretty much the plan. Of course we will have a czar appointed as well, so that Obama can remove himself from these pesky leadership demands once again.

The rest of the speech was an exercise in what Obama does best – selling smoke. He begins it with a false premise:

But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk. After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20% of the world’s oil, but have less than 2% of the world’s oil reserves. And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean – because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.

Of course his claim about drilling in deeper water because we’re running out of places to drill in shallow water is false. 97% of the shallow water on the Outer Continental Shelf -97%- has been placed off limits by government. The oil companies are forced into deeper water not by the lack of oil, but by government refusing to allow them to drill there.

He also uses the figure for “proven reserves” of 21 billion barrels. However, estimates for the OCS run in the 150 billion barrels and the Bakken Formation (on land) 134 billion barrels.

But those falsehoods provide a platform to launch into another “crisis” that only government can handle – completely revamping our energy mix and insisting on changing it now. After this and health care, who would trust him and the Congress to do that?

And, he tells us the solution he prefers – the House version of cap-and-trade (what he calls “a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill”). He further states, in the midst of a horrible recession, that “there are costs associated with this transition”. Of course there are – and certainly no guarantee any of it will do anything to either “change” the climate or mitigate our energy needs. But it will certainly give government control over another aspect of our lives.

Finally, he throws out a bunch of legislative and regulatory trial balloons all based on breaking our “addiction to fossil fuels”. Like “raising efficiency standards in our buildings” – straight out of the House bill which would require a federal inspector to OK your house before you could sell it to ensure it meets all fed standards. He pitched wind and solar energy as a new “standard”. And he also wasn’t happy with the amount the energy industry was spending on research and development for new sources of energy. He’d like to see that boosted.

In effect, the bottom line is more government – much more government. The same government so magnificently handling this crisis in the gulf and may others.

If nothing else, this speech cemented in my mind what this President is – an administrator, not a leader. And in that position, that is not a good thing to be.

~McQ


Really? An "oil recovery czar"?

This is the plan?

President Barack Obama, in his televised speech to the nation Tuesday, will announce the creation of an oil recovery “czar” to oversee progress in siphoning crude from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, his chief spokesman said.

Speaking on ABC television’s “Good Morning America” program, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the position is envisioned as “somebody that will be in charge of a recovery plan, putting a recovery plan together…when we get past the cleanup and response phase of this disaster.”

Well let’s see – we’ve had a commission appointed. We’ve seen the administration explore criminal charges against BP. And now, the administration that has been on top of this thing since “day one” is going to appoint “somebody that will be in charge of a recovery plan” and “putting a recovery plan together” 55 freakin’ days in to this!?

Now he’s going to put someone in charge and put a plan together?

Too bad we don’t have a method of voting “no confidence” in this country and calling for new elections. I think this guy would be gone in a New York minute.

~McQ


Remember who has been in charge from "day one"

It is important to note because that’s the claim made by the president and this is the reality of the situation:

From the beginning, the effort has been bedeviled by a lack of preparation, organization, urgency and clear lines of authority among federal, state and local officials, as well as BP. As a result, officials and experts say, the damage to the coastline and wildlife has been worse than it might have been if the response had been faster and orchestrated more effectively.

Also don’t forget that in addition to claiming to be in charge from “day one”, it was claimed that BP was doing what the government told it to do as it pertains to clean up, containment, even “plug[ging] the damn hole”.

And yet the New York Times calls the effort “chaotic”.

The other day, President Obama called the spill an echo of 9/11. Of course that’s preposterous. But it certainly is giving off more than a faint whiff of Katrina smell. At least as it pertains to the preception that the federal response then was slow and fell short of expectations.

We’re almost 60 days into this and the quoted paragraph is describing the scene today. Obama is visiting the Gulf region again and will address the nation on Wednesday night from the Oval office.

My only question is how much blame-shifting and scape-goating with the one in charge from “day one” engage in that night?

~McQ

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