The President wants to create a blue-ribbon commission to study the growing Gulf oil spill. But investigations are ongoing right now. The House Energy and Commerce Committee last week found multiple problems with the various companies involved in Deepwater Horizon, as well as the regulatory failures surrounding them. The Senate is involved in hearings today with Interior Secretary Salazar, where he tipped his hand about future offshore drilling, telling anti-drilling Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) to “stay tuned.” (Salazar made some onshore drilling changes today.) And yesterday yielded this fascinating bit from a hearing with Janet Napolitano:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano acknowledged Monday that the federal government doesn’t have the resources or expertise to deal with an oil spill 5,000 feet below the sea, and must largely depend on oil companies to deal with an incident of such magnitude.

Napolitano, the first Cabinet-level official to testify to Congress about the April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, also said there may have been too much reliance by the industry on blowout preventers as a fail-safe in the event of a catastrophe. There was perhaps not enough regulation or testing of the devices by the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, the Minerals Management Service.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why the president has been so very clear that further deepwater drilling permits are going to be stopped until this can be investigated and assurances can be gained that things have been changed so that we don’t have a duplication of the deepwater Horizon incident,” Napolitano said. “And so I think we’re all working together to say, ‘All right, what happened here? What power should MMS have had that it didn’t have? What powers did it have that it didn’t exercise?”

This is just a recognition of total regulatory and oversight failure. You cannot create the conditions for an oil spill that can affect millions of citizens and then throw up your hands that you simply don’t have the expertise to deal with the fallout. BP should obviously be in the lead financially, but consequences that are out of the control of those with the responsibility to protect the citizenry should be avoided. It’s the very definition of “too big to fail,” if you think about it.

I don’t know if this nuclear sub-captain is right, but the point is that the federal government probably doesn’t know either. And that’s a tragedy.

So is all the oil washing ashore (yes, it’s there, Brit Hume)