When writing opinion columns as I do, you’re best advised to have enough facts to support your opinion while trying to keep emotions to a minimum. You’re about to read a piece where emotion is the trump card.
My anger at British Petroleum and our federal “regulators” is gut-wrenching and it’s hard, even for an old, experienced reporter, to concentrate on the basic issue. Each dawn, with each new detail, I have a new supply of anger added to what’s already there.
If God were to reach down and put a Holy finger in that opening 5,500 feet under the surface, oil flow would stop. But environmental damage from oil already afloat or on land will last longer than any generation now living. Scientific fact.
It makes no difference when BP got the license to drill over a mile underwater with no technical ability to do so safely. I don’t care if the permit came under the auspices of the Bushes, Bill Clinton or Thomas Jefferson. It was wrong. It should never have happened.
It’s no secret that, for many, many years, government agencies have been far too cozy with those they regulate. Makes no difference whether you’re talking cars, tobacco, airplanes, coal mines, banks, utility companies, defense contractors or offshore drilling. Pick an industry government is supposed to police and you’ll find favoritism, uneven enforcement and, in none-too-rare cases, quid pro quo’s.
It’s always puzzled me how licensing agencies overseeing an industry can also be watchdog and enforcer. Evidence it can’t be done is overwhelming. It’s like asking the DMV clerk to also make the speeding arrest. Two valuable jobs. Two different jobs.
BP gets the brunt of my anger. First, for knowingly undertaking drilling without adequate technology to do so safely. Then, when things went wrong, for hiding evidence, publishing dishonest figures about how much oil was leaking and carrying on a campaign of bluster and B.S. meant to hide the fact BP cannot end the carnage.
The Obama administration is complicit for not using sanctions and other hammers it holds. There could be two reasons for that. I’m guessing here, but it could be (a) it doesn’t want to shove BP to the brink of bankruptcy or force it to take some other legal move to slither out of long-term responsibility and/or (b) our government and the military have no better tools for the situation than BP. I have to believe there are credible reasons for the limited federal reaction. If there aren’t, we’re in more trouble than an oil disaster.
By now, the President should have gathered the best technological brains from any source and charged them with finding fast solutions. The military and the National Guard should have been tasked. All agencies should have been assigned to whatever jobs need covering. And the heads of Interior and Homeland Security should have been told to solve the problem in a short, specific time. Or else.
While we all will feel the effects of these millions of gallons of crude in our lives one way or the other, it’s the people of Louisiana who will really suffer. Hurricane Katrina, bad as it was, caused nowhere near the long-term damage. You can rebuild a house or a few blocks of businesses in a matter of weeks or months. But the youngest of us alive today won’t live long enough to see complete restoration of the tidelands, tributaries, coastlines and wildlife being destroyed daily.
Louisianans who’ve lived for generations in the tidelands and know nothing but the fisherman’s or the shrimper’s life are seeing their livelihoods and their worlds end. Imagine yourself in the timber business when suddenly, every tree in Oregon disappeared, making Douglas County look like the eastern two-thirds of Wyoming. Everything you know gone. Nothing left.
It’s not enough to get the polluting stopped. Whenever that happens. It must never happen again. What better motivation could there be for a complete overhaul of federal licensing and regulating in ALL industries? What better time for both political parties to create the actual system of government oversight and security we thought we had?
Government should take the leading role in the Gulf of Mexico. Now! BP should be made a captive and subservient player. All government power … all of it … should be brought to bear and the fire under BP kept so hot their British feet don’t touch the ground. There will be time enough for investigations and finger-pointing and all the political posturing.
There should be no Democrats; no Republicans. Only Americans. And their guts … all of them … should hurt as bad as mine!