Tuesday, June 15, 2010

BP and the President - A fantasy

The President is going to the Gulf again this morning for some purpose.  Perhaps he believes that if he goes to the Gulf he will rally the population to his efforts.  Based on his rhetoric, he might be going to command BP to solve the problem now.

But how about another way for him to respond?   Perhaps this is what he could say in his speech to the nation tonight, "My fellow Americans, up to now, my administration has looked like a bunch of idiots.  Our responses to this crisis have been dimwitted.  Let's understand that we need the oil and in the last three decades federal policy has created conditions where our dependency on foreign oil has increased from about a third of our total consumption to more than two thirds.  At the same time federal policy has made it harder and harder to drill for oil within our shores.   Perhaps if we had some sounder policy we might not encourage oil companies to drill in such dangerous places.

This is a mess created in part by government policy but we should not underestimate that a significant part of the blame comes from sloppy corporate behavior.  Neither has served this region well.   Therefore, here is what I am going to do.   1) We are going to act with all deliberate speed to cap the well.  I'm going to quit coming down here for photo ops and I am going to empower the Coast Guard to have all the necessary resources to get that done.  It will not be quick, this is a very deep well.  But be assured that the Admiral in charge will have all the resources he needs.  What we do not need is more politicians flapping their gums about how to cap the well - that is beyond their expertise.  It certainly is above mine and no matter how many times I have a photo op on the beach picking up tar balls, I haven't a clue how to solve this problem - but our federal agencies have some talented professionals who do have the technical knowledge.  2)The next step we need to take is to rethink our federal policy - and here is where I can actually do something.   I am going to convene a balanced group of experts to look at the policies of the federal government as they relate to drilling for oil.   That group will include some environmental advocates but it will also include some people who know something about geology and engineering.   It will be a more balanced group than I have proposed so far.  I can make one promise here, when the group comes up with a policy report, I will use my resources to get a sound public discussion about the issues.  That should not include showboat legislative hearings but the sound kind of policy discussions that balance the expertise of the people on the task force with the political realities of our current environment.   Make no mistake, when any politician makes an attempt to grandstand this issue, I will call him out on it.  This issue is too important to allow yammering politicians to distort our understanding of what needs to be done. 3) I am going to give up on trying to look macho.  I have no clue how to run a complex corporation.  I've never had any business experience.   But I do understand something about the law.  I will work out with BP how they can assure the residents of the Gulf that they will be fairly compensated for this problem, that might also include TransOcean who built the rig. The bully pulpit of my office will help me do that - but you won't hear about my discussions.  This is a delicate matter that needs to be done outside of the 24 hour news cycle.  When we get an agreement, and I do have an understanding of how to negotiate (they teach that in law school), we will announce it.   4) (And most important) The American people deserve honesty in this situation.  Human effort is imperfect.  Even the best of us will make mistakes.  What is important here is not to enlarge the political rhetoric but to focus on an appropriate role for government.  I know this is an election year, but responding appropriately to this problem (which my administration has not done well up to this point) is more important than trying to win votes."

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