Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Obama Plays Tough Guy With BP, Mr. Reasonable For New Energy Laws

  President Barack Obama in a nationally televised speech Tuesday night on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill accused BP of "recklessness." We knew that.

"We will make BP pay," he said. How much, he didn't say.

He announced still another presidential commission.

He called it the Gulf Coast Restoration Plan. It will be headed by former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus working in conjunction with local states, towns, fishermen and conservationists.

He was vague on details but any restoration plan would cost billions of dollars. He said BP will pay for that, too.

Last month Obama appointed a presidential commission investigating the cause of America's largest accidental environmental disaster and gave the seven-member panel until December to offer fixes.

He told a whopper, too. That is his assertion that 90% of the spill will be siphoned into oil cargo container ships by early July.

It is based on estimates from his Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu, and BP engineers.

That's a bold assertion for a president known for sweeping generalities than specificity.

It comes hours after the Chu team revised estimates the spill from 5,000 feet below the Gulf surface was gushing between 50,000 and 80,000 barrels of gas and crude daily, up from 1,000 bpd shortly after the April 20 accident.

The president was not specific for good reason setting a target date for August when relief wells are expected to intersect the broken pipe 8,000 feet under the Gulf floor and cap it off permanently.

"We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long it takes," Obama said.

He used military terminology. Words like "assault" and "fight" and deploying 2,000 more National Guard troops.

What he didn't say was confusion among the governors where to assign the troops since they are restricted to activities on the ground and not on water, according to one report filed by CNN's Anderson Cooper.

The president confessed the Interior Department's Mineral Management Services agency contributed to the BP disaster for being slack in its regulation duties. We knew that.

It is being overhauled, he said. Michael Bromwich, who was a Justice Department head-hunter, will be the new director.

'His charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry's watchdog — not its partner," he promised.

Borrowing terms he used cautioning Americans that the fight against Islamic terrorism and turning the economy and unemployment around will take time, Obama said the oil spill is an epidemic lasting months and years unlike earthquakes and hurricanes.

One-third of the 22-minute speech was directed at the need of Congress enacting an energy policy in crafty language that referred only once the words "climate change," a term radioactive to Republicans in both the House and Senate.

Justified the president:

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.
For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor. 

Immediately after the speech, I switched to Fox News and as sure as the sun was setting in the West, Charles Krauthammer, who makes more money in a week than I do in a year, was telling Bill O'Reilly the American people cannot afford the new energy taxes which would add to our electric bills about $30/month.

This was after the president was just warming up to his campaign pledge.

We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny. 

I also switched to CNN where a correspondent in Jefferson Parish hosted a group viewing of the presidential address. All the people interviewed said the same thing.
Give us the money BP owes us and plug the damn hole so we can get our lives back.



Obama delivered a good speech. Gulf residents have been kicked in the gut so often with every hurricane that passes through and now the BP spill, little wonder they feel as Little Orphan Annie and develop a "show me" attitude of their northern brothers in Missouri. But where the president's speech I fear failed was reaching deaf ears in places as Peoria, Ill.,  or Butte, Mont., where the effects of the disaster will not be felt, at least not this year. Did he rally the nation? I think not. Did he have to use the occasion to pitch energy legislation? Normally I would say yes, of course. In this polarized political climate with midterm elections on the horizon and the economy in the tank for many, I think not. An environmental disaster does not get the entire nation's attention. Gas prices above $4 a gallon do. I checked it out. Regular goes for $2.70 nationally with a high of $3.05 in California, according to the June 14 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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