It’s Tuesday, so that means it’s time to get excited about yet another BP attempt to capture oil flowing out of the underwater gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. This time, we’ve got a new dome, now with 50% more dome technology. And BP admits going in that this wouldn’t actually plug the leak, just slow it down somewhat. Actually, initially, cutting the pipe leading to the blowout preventer will remove a kink in it and INCREASE the flow of oil – temporarily, we’re told.
I think everyone realizes that this thing’s bound to keep going until August at the earliest, when the relief wells have been drilled. And mind you, August is BP’s estimated completion date, so add a month or so onto the back end of that, if their veracity to date is any indication.
White House energy and climate adviser Carol M. Browner said Sunday that the oil spill was “probably the biggest environmental disaster we’ve ever faced in this country” and that “we are prepared for the worst.” On the CBS show “Face the Nation,” she said that the “American people need to know that it is possible we will have oil leaking from this well until August when the relief wells will be finished.”
Those two wells, which BP began drilling early this month, are expected to intersect the damaged one and seal it near the reservoir far below the seafloor. The first has reached 7,000 feet below the seafloor, and the second has reached 3,500 feet below the floor, but progress gets slower the deeper the wells go. With the arrival of hurricane season Tuesday, the drilling could be slowed if the rigs need to be evacuated during storms.
I can think of no reason to believe anything coming from BP or Washington on this one. BP clearly is in crisis management mode and far more concerned about their PR image. Washington has basically outsourced the management of this disaster so they don’t have to take as much of a hit.
That does seem to be changing. Thad Allen, the incident commander for the Coast Guard, will now give solo briefings to the media, in an effort to show control over the situation. More cabinet members prepared to visit the region, including Attorney General Eric Holder today. But when Bobby Jindal is saying “We need our federal government exactly for this kind of crisis,” you know that they could be engaging to a greater degree. I like Robert Reich’s idea:
It’s time for the federal government to put BP under temporary receivership, which gives the government authority to take over BP’s operations in the Gulf of Mexico until the gusher is stopped. This is the only way the public will know what’s going on, be confident enough resources are being put to stopping the gusher, ensure BP’s strategy is correct, know the government has enough clout to force BP to use a different one if necessary, and be sure the President is ultimately in charge.
If the government can take over giant global insurer AIG and the auto giant General Motors and replace their CEOs, in order to keep them financially solvent, it should be able to put BP’s North American operations into temporary receivership in order to stop one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.
At least then the “resources and expertise” that government officials keep rightly explaining they don’t have can be transferred to the authority of those who would have less incentive to act in their own PR interests rather than the interests of the nation. Brad Johnson writes that the Obama Administration has full authority to create a receivership or even nationalize BP and seize its assets. I think that urging the President to “take command” in some metaphorical way – “show more emotion!” – is silly, but there are plenty of concrete steps even short of receivership that could be taken.
At the least, the federal government should direct the ground cleanup. BP has no special resources for that endeavor over what the feds have access to. And the monitoring of the size of the leak should come completely out of the hands of BP, who Carol Browner admits has a financial interest in lowballing that amount, because they could be fined $4,300/barrel for what has spilled. They’ve denied the existence of the underwater plumes of which scientists have found clear evidence.
The President should temporarily take over BP’s Gulf operations. We have a national emergency on our hands. No president would allow a nuclear reactor owned by a private for-profit company to melt down in the United States while remaining under the direct control of that company. The meltdown in the Gulf is the environmental equivalent.