Energy Industry Lacks Credibility

As I flipped through the channels the other night I paused breifly to hear Sean Hannity on Fox News start a segment on his show that was about to blame President Obama for the oil spill crisis in the Gulf. He prattled on about the “double standard” in criticism about Bush’s handling of Katrina and Obama’s “slow” reaction to the current Gulf crisis.

Well, in order to keep my blood pressure down, I didn’t stay and listen to the whole predictable diatribe, but this needs to be addressed.

First — Katrina WAS a government responsibility. Even libertarians will agree that natural disasters are part of the Federal domain where government is absolutely necessary to alleviate the problem. Bush failed miserably in that test and every bit of criticism was justified. Frankly, I think he got off too easy. New Orleans was nearly destroyed and is still trying to recover.

Secondly — This oil spill was NOT a natural disaster. There is a cause. What it is, is still under investigation, but the reason the Federal government did not respond immediately is that this rig was the property of, or at least the responsibility of, a corporation — British Petroleum. BP did not ask for assistance, apparently and wrongly believing that they could contain the problem. The Federal government asked if they could assist (or more to the point, insisted that they be allowed to assist) and BP, which by this time was overwhelmed, gladly accepted. And again, I would assume libertarians would have agreed with that as well — after all we don’t want the Feds in places they are not wanted.

But let’s look at this problem in the broader context. The Obama administration had just finished opening the doors to a broadening of the ability of oil companies to expand their off-shore drilling endeavors. After years of “drill, baby drill” and absolute assurances that there could never be any problems with these ocean rigs, the way was cleared for more drilling offshore. As we continue our snail’s pace to switch to cleaner power sources, we are still caught in the fossil fuel web and need to feed our addiction with more.

It astonishes me that BP is completely helpless in fixing the problem. Are we to assume that a disaster, such as we have now, never appeared on any of their potential scenarios? A loss of an oil rig and an uncapped oil pipe deep below the ocean never occurred to any of them?

So here we are. The Gulf Coast is, again, plunged into a potential economic and environmental disaster. And again, the taxpayers of the United States are asked to bail out an industry that gave us false assurances that they had prepared for every contingency.

Bankers gave us that assurance as well. We don’t need any silly regulation. We can police ourselves. Yea, right!

This also makes me reassess my feelings on nuclear power. I had been leaning towards eliminating the moratorium on new nuclear power plants….because we need to move to cleaner fuels now, and it takes a lot of time to get them up and running. However, that change in feeling depended on the promises from the nuclear industry that they are rectifying the waste fuel problem and that safety has improved immensely.

Given the track record of the energy industry, do you still believe them?

I no longer do. Instead of “drill, baby drill” — how about a little “truth, baby, truth”.

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