The Real Environmental Disaster

Tait Trussell is a national award-winning writer, former vice-president of the American Enterprise Institute and former Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.


Pages: 1 2

The “greatest environmental disaster” in history. The words resounded for weeks on end, like the repeated gong of a giant bell. This superlative description of the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico became the description du jour for those from President Obama and his administration to members of the mainstream news media. In a speech from the Oval Office on June 15, Obama called it “the worse environmental disaster America has ever faced.”

But was the harm to the environment what concerned the administration most? Not as much as the real story about the oil spill: It was a classic case of political frustration with the loss of command-and-control, the essential modus operandi of the Obama administration. It was best exemplified by the threat of Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who said the Obama administration will “keep our boot on the throat of BP” until it stops the spewing oil. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar had first used the expression. Obama, no Anglophile, was eager to command the British company. He realized even he couldn’t control nature — as 11th Century English King Canute thought he could by holding back the sea’s tide.

As the environmental catastrophe unfolded on his watch, a befuddled and angry Obama was quoted by senior government officials as crying out: “Plug the damn hole.”  According to CNN, Obama on May 27 told the news media, “The federal government is fully engaged, and I’m fully engaged.”

At this May 27 press conference, he took this question from the AP’s Jennifer Loven:

You just said that the federal government is in charge, and officials in your administration have said this repeatedly. Yet how do you explain that we’re more than five weeks into this crisis and that BP is not always doing as you’re asking; for example, with the type of dispersant that’s being used? And if I might add one more: To the many people in the Gulf who, as you said, are angry and frustrated and feel somewhat abandoned, what do you say about whether your personal involvement, your personal engagement, has been as much as it should be, either privately or publicly?

President Obama responded:

Well, I’ll take the second question first, if you don’t mind. The day that the rig collapsed and fell to the bottom of the ocean, I had my team in the Oval Office that first day. Those who think that we were either slow on our response or lacked urgency don’t know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred. (Many believe this stretches credulity.) Personally, I’m briefed every day, and have probably had more meetings on this issue than just about any issue since we did our Afghan review. And we understood from day one the potential enormity of this crisis, and acted accordingly.

While publicly expressing deep concern about the impact on the Gulf states, Obama was apparently so preoccupied with loss of complete control that he also lost the competence to tackle the environmental challenges. As Gateway Pundit and others have pointed out: Obama accepted help from only five of 28 countries that offered aid. It took 53 days of gushing oil before the administration accepted help from the Dutch and British. It took 58 days to mobilize military personnel to the Gulf. Crude oil-sucking barges were shut down because of technical fire extinguisher regulations. The administration ignored oil containment-boom manufacturers that had miles of their product available in warehouses. Dredging for sand berms to block the oil from the Louisiana coast was forbidden for weeks. No skimmer boats were sent to Mississippi’s shore. Florida had to hire added skimmer boats because of federal inaction.

BP was squeezed to finance a $20 billion trust fund to pay claims of those hurt by the Gulf spill, Obama announced June 16 after meeting at the White House with the oil company top executives. As Obama proudly explained: “The $20 billion amount will provide substantial assurance that the claims people and businesses have will be honored. It is also important to emphasize that this is not a cap,” he added menacingly. “The people of the Gulf have my commitment,” CSnews.com reported, “that BP will meet its obligations to them.” BP has assumed responsibility from the beginning. BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg told reporters after the White House meeting he wanted to “apologize to the American people on behalf of all BP employees and thank all for their patience.” He also said his company would not pay shareholders dividends this year. Carol Browner, Obama’s energy and climate czar, said the decision to set up the fund was “White House driven.” (Naturally.) And that it would not have been made by BP alone, she indicated.

Pages: 1 2

  • Michael Wilson

    "…as 11th Century English King Canute thought he could by holding back the sea’s tide."
    Not so! This is an incorrect hand-me-down. The real story:-
    "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings. For there is none worthy of the name but God, whom heaven, earth and sea obey".

    So spoke King Canute the Great, the legend says, seated on his throne on the seashore, waves lapping round his feet. Canute had learned that his flattering courtiers claimed he was "So great, he could command the tides of the sea to go back". Now Canute was not only a religious man, but also a clever politician. He knew his limitations – even if his courtiers did not – so he had his throne carried to the seashore and sat on it as the tide came in, commanding the waves to advance no further. When they didn't, he had made his point that, though the deeds of kings might appear 'great' in the minds of men, they were as nothing in the face of God's power.

  • Sprinklerman

    Only one simple issue can explain this although others might know of other reasons.

    Prince William Sound is a very remote location. Everything that needed to be used there to clean up the spill had to be flown in or shipped. The logistical effort in the Exxon Valdez spill was very extensive and complex.

    Compare that to one of the most heavily populated coasts anywhere in the world with extensive spill response capability and that alone can explain most of the issues relative to the time taken to clean up a spill.

    Of course Mr. Bonds, you could continue to listen to the talking heads that spout what most enviro-nuts want you to believe or you could read Time and find that this isn't as bad as most first believed that it would be. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,20

  • Catherine51

    The record shows that Obama and his Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar—who has a record of criticizing the Bush administration from the right for being too restrictive on the oil industry—took numerous actions over the past 16 months to accelerate drilling in the Gulf.
    As the World Socialist Web Site noted on May 10 (“Obama administration blocked efforts to stop BP oil drilling before explosion”), the administration intervened in a federal court case in support of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and Salazar specifically cited BP’s Deepwater Horizon operation as one that should be allowed to go forward.
    An initial court decision—handed out only days after Obama gave BP an environmental waiver for its Deepwater Horizon rig—ruled that oil drilling in the Gulf was being carried out without sufficient study of its impact. Salazar praised a subsequent court decision, handed down in July 2009, which allowed the BP project to go forward and thus condemned much of the US Gulf coast to environmental catastrophe. http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/may2010/pers-m2

  • courtnye

    "The Louisiana Coast Is Healing" What kinda stupid comment is that????? Apparently your just reading some headline somewhere!!! Get in your car and drive down here and look for yourself before making such a retarded comment. Trying being in business down here, try selling "Louisiana Fresh Seafood" I am so sick of hearing that the oil is gone, I am so sick of hearing Prezzzzz. Obama LIE. I am just really tired of people that don't have a glue, running their mouths about something that they read and believed then write something they really don't know a thing about. Wanna know, get in your car and visit a restaurant on the coast, go to a local seafood market, OH WAIT you can't they're CLOSED>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  • winter gales coming

    The real enviromental disaster is right here on the east and west coasts. Way to many muslims move here, and they over pollute the sewer systems, energy systems, take all the new apts. /and other apts homes. They don't fit in, and say they do not ant to do so. They use only their own taxis, and new cars , and where do they get the money to do so? Federal housing should be for only those with no new cars, like the old welfare system. They are a drain on all systems.; use all he protestant churches to take food from the really low waged couples and one to three children. they have 10 and more, and they take all the food. They have dual passbooks, how about them leaving for arab lands . Europe doesn't want them either. They should be homesick by now… or do they have another agenda planned? I have heard they want Europe and America to rule them… own them .

    • George

      do you live on the east and west coasts? Where is "here" exactly. Muslims…especially arab muslims make up a tiny minority of immigrants to either coast. Then, what do you do…do you work in soup kitchens on both sides of the country? Maybe you just enjoy creative writing.

  • scum

    Remember the law stipulates that cleanup is the responsibility of BP. The disaster was due to the same type of shoddy oversight and outright criminality that led to the economic disaster of 08. As more information emerges we'll hopefully see criminal charges against those who destroy the earth. Too bad FPM is on the wrong side, AGAIN.

    • dgc

      And which Federal statutes are you referring to?

      Is it too much to ask for a real conversation in lieu of mindless vitriol? If not, begone troll…to Yahoo!

  • scum

    Actually, BP was desparate to make it look good. That's why they dumped chemicals in the water to make the large globs dissipate faster so you wouldn't see them on the aerial shots (BP basically used their 'freedom' as a corporation to stop photos being taken from land). Breaking up the globs meant that BP could claim the oil was gone, and the sea would now be victim to the far more insidious micro-blobs which are infecting the entire food chain faster. So no, we're not that stupid. But it's not the Govt/Media complex. Unless you want to blame Rush, who said that's it's all a natural occurence…

  • dgc

    Part 1:
    There actually appears to be several hypotheses that, if accurate, reasonably explain some of these seemingly baffling observations. In contrast to Prince Williams' Sound, the ambient temperature of the water and air in the gulf is significantly warmer. It also is the case that that the oil from the gulf is a lighter grade, without many of the heavier components found in heavy crude. These two factors have been suggested to result in both higher evaporation rates and the activity of biological degradation of the released oil in the gulf. It should also be considered that the Gulf is significantly larger than Prince Williams' sound, which translates into a much larger, effective dispersal area for the gulf spill for these processes to occur. At this point, the data isn't there to conclusively confirm that this is happening.

  • dgc

    Part 2:
    What is noteworthy, however, is that there have been several follow up studies on the recovery of Prince Williams’ Sound, and it is remarkable that those areas that were allowed to recover without any intervention actually did so more quickly than those areas that were cleaned, including the recovery of the natural fauna and flora in the area. Perhaps nature is more robust and resilient than some people have been led to believe?

  • badaboo

    It's already been more or less established that for the sake of GREED , BP IGNORED ALL WARNINGS , ENGINEER'S ADVICE , IT'S OWN EMPLOYEES ADVICE AND SCIENTIFIC DATA ,and caused this disaster . There is no one else to blame but BP , and the regulators who failed in their jobs to insure that safe operation was being followed .As to what followed ? and what effects of the spill ? BP , no one else . Obama's job is not stopping blown out wells , at this point it is making BP PAY for any and all damages to the Environment and the affected economy .

  • badaboo

    BTW Exxon NEVER did pay for all of the damage it did , which persists to this day .