Curious To Hear Your Thoughts

May 26, 2010 11:35 am

There’s a rising tide of criticism from Republicans about the president’s management of the Gulf oil spill catastrophe. But it’s not just Republicans. On the one hand, I’ve tended to dismiss the criticism since obviously the system of offshore drilling and regulation isn’t something he or this administration had anything to do with. And the idea that Obama is too close to the oil business seems silly. Wall Street, there’s a decent case for that. And on the Health Insurance industry too, though that’s more complicated. But not the oil industry. I also think there’s a decent argument that as frustrating as it is, it’s the people who actually run these rigs who know best how to stop them and how they run. So it’s like the president can just tell BP to go take a hike and call in the Navy to plug the thing up.Still, the issue of control isn’t simply one of operational knowledge. It’s a matter of who the relevant people are working for. At this point — outside the issue of liability — this doesn’t really have much if anything to do with BP. This is clearly a national event, which is causing severe environmental and economic damage to a big section of the country. Even for the oil industry itself it’s doing grave damage. So why is BP in charge? Why are they in charge of any of the information release? I get that BP has more knowledge of how these things work than maybe the the Army Corps of Engineers. But what about ExxonMobil? Or Shell? Can they help out? I say this half rhetorically but half not. This has gone well beyond anything that has to do with a single company.

At some level, some problems don’t have good fixes. And president’s aren’t necessarily equipped with strong constitutional powers to stop oil gushing out of the ocean floor. But is it possible that the White House hasn’t wanted to take a more hands on role because they don’t know if they can fix it and don’t want to take the blame for continuing failure? Preferring instead to let BP keep taking the rap? We keep hearing that BP’s doing everything we ask and that we slap them on their knuckles when they don’t release some key information. But at some basic level, why are they even in charge? Is it not time to simply federalize the whole thing? The whole emergency response? I get all the sense about the practicalities of the matter. But it’s a national crisis and seems like it requires a national response, not even some attenuated subcontracting out of it to a private company that has numerous interests quite different from the public good.

What do you think?

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