Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Obama Addresses The Oil Spill... Kind Of


Last night President Obama addressed the nation in words that sounded like we were being invaded by a foreign power, which, in a way, we have been: The United State of Corporate Greed, which has bought many-- if not most-- of our own political leaders to further their own ends. Obama started talking about it in a sentence that also included a reference to al Qaeda and kept using military words:
On April 20th, an explosion ripped through BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about forty miles off the coast of Louisiana. Eleven workers lost their lives. Seventeen others were injured. And soon, nearly a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, oil began spewing into the water.
Because there has never been a leak of this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology. That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge-- a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.
As a result of these efforts, we have directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology.  In the coming days and weeks, these efforts should capture up to 90% of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that is expected to stop the leak completely. 
Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it is not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years. 
But make no mistake: we will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy. 
Tonight I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward: what we’re doing to clean up the oil, what we’re doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf, and what we’re doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again. 
First, the cleanup. From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation’s history-- an effort led by Admiral Thad Allen, who has almost forty years of experience responding to disasters. We now have nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across four states to contain and cleanup the oil. Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf. And I have authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast. These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, clean beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims-- and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible. 
Because of our efforts, millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming, and other collection methods. Over five and a half million feet of boom has been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil. We have approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try and stop the oil before it reaches the shore, and we are working with Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines. 
As the clean up continues, we will offer whatever additional resources and assistance our coastal states may need. Now, a mobilization of this speed and magnitude will never be perfect, and new challenges will always arise. I saw and heard evidence of that during this trip. So if something isn’t working, we want to hear about it. If there are problems in the operation, we will fix them. 
But we have to recognize that despite our best efforts, oil has already caused damage to our coastline and its wildlife. And sadly, no matter how effective our response becomes, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done. That’s why the second thing we’re focused on is the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast. 
You know, for generations, men and women who call this region home have made their living from the water. That living is now in jeopardy. I’ve talked to shrimpers and fishermen who don’t know how they’re going to support their families this year. I’ve seen empty docks and restaurants with fewer customers-- even in areas where the beaches are not yet affected. I’ve talked to owners of shops and hotels who wonder when the tourists will start to come back. The sadness and anger they feel is not just about the money they’ve lost. It’s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.  

 I refuse to let that happen. Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party. 
Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short-term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region. The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that has already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats. And the region still hasn’t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment. 
I make that commitment tonight. Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, a former governor of Mississippi, and a son of the Gulf, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible. The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other Gulf residents. And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.  
The third part of our response plan is the steps we’re taking to ensure that a disaster like this does not happen again. A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe-- that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken.
That was obviously not the case on the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why. The American people deserve to know why. The families I met with last week who lost their loved ones in the explosion-- these families deserve to know why. And so I have established a National Commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place. Already, I have issued a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling. I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs, but for the sake of their safety, and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue. And while I urge the Commission to complete its work as quickly as possible, I expect them to do that work thoroughly and impartially.       

One place we have already begun to take action is at the agency in charge of regulating drilling and issuing permits, known as the Minerals Management Service.  Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility – a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves.  At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight.  Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors, and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations.  
When Ken Salazar became my Secretary of the Interior, one of his very first acts was to clean up the worst of the corruption at this agency. But it’s now clear that the problems there ran much deeper, and the pace of reform was just too slow. And so Secretary Salazar and I are bringing in new leadership at the agency-- Michael Bromwich, who was a tough federal prosecutor and Inspector General. His charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry’s watchdog-- not its partner. 
One of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling. But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk. After all, oil is a finite resource. 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.  
The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude. 
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. 
This is not some distant vision for America. The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but over the last year and a half, we have already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry. As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels.  Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient. Scientists and researchers are discovering clean energy technologies that will someday lead to entire new industries.
While the president spoke, one of the worst and most vicious, negative Republican obstructionists, racist Georgia reactionary Paul Broun tweeting away his poison:

Click the imagine to better understand the sheer insanity hate-filled Republicans in Congress are suffering

I can only imagine what kind of negative crap came spewing out of Fox. It was bad enough on MSNBC where Keith Olbermann, Howard Fineman and Tweety just skewered Obama for... not being exactly how they want him to be and for not being Roosevelt and Churchill and not promising what he knows he can't deliver.

Rex Tillerson, Chairman, CEO, ExxonMobil; John Watson, Chairman, CEO, Chevron; James Mulva, Chairman, CEO, ConocoPhillips; Lamar McKay, President, Chairman, BP America; Marvin Odum, President, Shell Oil

Earlier in the day the House Energy and Commerce Committee held hearings with executives from the big oil companies-- you know, the guys who have pumped $143,831,148 into congressional campaigns since 1990 ($105,362,292 of it to Republicans) and nearly $40 million more into lobbying since 1998. (B.P., by the way, was the second biggest spender among oil firms on lobbying-- $3,530,000 so far).
The executives, under questioning by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), sat just feet from BP America President Lamar McKay but sought to put miles between their companies and his.
Waxman and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), in a letter to BP two days ago, alleged the company used risky procedures to save money and time.
“In reviewing the letter that you both sent, it appears clear to me that a number of design standards that I would consider to be the industry norm were not followed,” said Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson. “We would not have drilled the well the way they did.”
“It certainly appears from your letter that not all standards that we would recommend or that we would employ were in place,” said Chevron CEO John Watson.
And Shell Oil Co. President Marvin Odum said that “it's not a well that we would have drilled with that mechanical setup. And there are operational concerns.”
The executives’ statements come as lawmakers and the White House consider a wide range of responses to the spill, such as changes to liability rules and safety procedures.
More broadly, the industry has suffered a devastating blow to its reputation at a time when Democrats are pushing to remove tax breaks and pass wide-ranging energy legislation that could affect the sector as a whole.

Ed Markey (D-MA) was the most outspoken and relentless. “The other companies here today will contend this was an isolated incident. They will say a similar disaster could never happen to them, yet it is this kind of blind faith that is ironically the name of an actual rig in the Gulf,” he said. “All of these companies, not just BP, made the exact same assurances.” Oil industry ally and apologist, John Boehner, who has taken $258,350 in thinly veiled bribes from Big Oil, denegrated congressional hearings on the spill.

Thursday Boehner was at his nastiest and most sarcastic-- angry that he had to cancel a day of golfing to address the spill-- and said Congress is wasting its time by investigating the oil companies. He seemed to be suggesting the members go down to the Gulf and plug up the well themselves... which would be great. Why hasn't he? Or any of his colleagues? “Why don’t we get the oil stopped, figure out what the hell went wrong, and then have the hearings and get the damn law fixed." Isn't that what hearings are for, figuring out what went wrong?

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At 9:20 AM, Anonymous me said...

"We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused."

Didn't we hear that about Exxon and the Prince William Sound spill? Why, yes we did.

And what happened? Twenty years went by, long enough to get most of the calamity down the memory hole, and our corporatized Supreme Court said that Exxon didn't have to pay after all.

Everything Obama has done since his election, and I mean everything, points to the same thing happening again.

What should happen is first, the officials responsible for shortcutting safety, both on this rig and via evading regulatory oversight, and possibly the regulators themselves, should be prosecuted and imprisoned. That is the BEST, and perhaps the ONLY, way to ensure that such a disaster never happens again.

Second, BP should pay for all the damage they caused. If it bankrupts the company and wipes out the shareholders, so be it. Any dividends the company pays out before the damages are fully paid should be legally revoked and appropriated by the government.

But what WILL happen is exactly the opposite: Nothing. No one will go to jail, and BP will pay a small amount of damages and perhaps a small fine, both of which will be returned to the company, plus interest, after several years. The taxpayers will pay for about 25% of the loss and the remainder will be absorbed by those who suffered the losses.

That's the way our corporatocracy works, and nothing I've seen from Obama promises to make any difference.

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous me said...

PS. I know that's a harsh assessment. Anybody want to bet that I'm wrong?

At 1:45 PM, Blogger msavage12 said...

Mr. President, why didn't you mention that you would make BP furnish respirators for the workers on the oily beaches in your speech last night? No one has addressed the health issues that are occurring every day, and will continue until....
Why don't you give Dr. Riki Ott or me a call to hear our story of toxic danger from crude oil? It is bad enough that the 11,000+ workers from 1989's spill became Exxon's Collateral Damaged; don’t allow BP to have collateral damage also.
The Supreme Court did not hold Exxon libel for their injustice to workers, and we will see how the BP oil spill plays out.

My letter to Gulf residents.

The continuing health problems of people involved in cleanup of the Exxon Valdez spill present urgent lessons for the Gulf cleanup crews.

My name is Merle Savage, a female general foreman during the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) beach cleanup in 1989, and one of the 11,000+ cleanup workers, who is suffering from health issues from that toxic cleanup, without compensation from Exxon.
Dr. Riki Ott visited me in 2007 to explain about the toxic spraying on the beaches. She also informed me that Exxon’s medical records, and the reports that surfaced in litigation by sick workers in 1994, had been sealed from the public, making it impossible to hold Exxon responsible for their actions.

Beach crews breathed in crude oil that splashed off the rocks and into the air — the toxic exposure turned into chronic breathing conditions, central nervous system problems, neurological impairment, chronic respiratory disease, leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, liver damage, and blood disease.

My web site is devoted to searching for EVOS cleanup workers who were exposed to the toxic spraying, and are suffering from the same illnesses that I have. There is an on going Longshoreman’s claim for workers with medical problems from the oil cleanup. Our summer employment turned into a death sentence for many — and a life of unending medical conditions for the rest of Exxon’s Collateral Damaged.


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