Thursday, April 29, 2010

Privatize the oil profits, socialize the cleanup

President Barack Obama pledged an all-out response Thursday to the massive oil spill now expected to reach the Gulf Coast within a day and dispatched top officials to the region to help coordinate defenses against the potential environmental disaster.

After exploding last week and killing eleven workers and spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico for a week, Deepwater Horizon's owner BP -- the former British Petroleum Company, known to you perhaps by their lovely green and yellow logo -- begged the federal government to help them clean up their mess.

It's much worse than they have been saying. In fact it's so bad that they are setting fire to oil on the water.

At the White House, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara said, "We are being very aggressive and we are prepared for the worst case." Federal officials announced inspections would begin immediately of all oil rigs in the Gulf and subpoena powers would be used in the gathering investigation. But the priority was to support the oil company BP PLC in employing booms, skimmers, chemical dispersants and controlled burns to fight the oil surging from the seabed.

Why is it that corporations always turn to the federal government for help when they screw things up really badly?

Brice-O'Hara said officials expected the leading edge of the spill to reach the Mississippi Delta sometime on Friday. Workers were racing from six staging areas to deploy more booms to try to hold off the slick and protect sea life and fragile wetlands. Winds and sea conditions Thursday prevented another controlled burn of the kind tried successfully a day earlier with a small test section of the slick.

Top Homeland Security, Interior and Environmental Protection Agency officials were going to the region. Officials emphasized at a White House briefing that all costs of the defense and recovery will ultimately fall on the industry, not taxpayers.

That's encouraging to hear, but for some reason I still kinda doubt it. BP has to be one of the unluckiest companies around. Their refineries explode almost regularly, so maybe their offshore rigs are just following suit. Enough about their incompetence, though.

Obama spoke Thursday with five Gulf state governors from Florida to Texas.

The administration declared the spill to be one of national significance, a designation that eases the transfer of personnel and equipment to the region from all parts of the country.

So the president called and spoke with Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour (MS), Bob Riley (AL) and Charlie Crist -- all Republicans; most of them TeaBaggers but one definite TeaBaggee  --and pledged federal assistance in the cleanup.

Do you suppose any of them said, "no thanks, Mr. President"? "We don't need your socialist help"? 

Do you suppose the Texas governor confronted the US president about that target? Or bragged about blasting that coyote? Or reiterated his desire to secede from the Union, maybe?

When summer settles in and the hurricanes start to swirl and the Gulf Coast governors are forced -- like the rest of us -- to dread the annual onslaught from the sea, will they come crying to Uncle Sam for help if one of their cities gets washed away?

One thing they can certainly count on: the president won't just be flying overhead looking out the window.

Update: John Coby with more.

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