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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Administration's Oil Spil Response at Day 72

I just got off the phone with a spokesperson from USCG Central Command (Spill Response Headquarters)in hopes of getting a list of foreign-flagged vessels currently taking part in the oil spill abatement operation. Her first response was to tell me there were no foreign vessels working the oil spill. When I insisted that we already had reports of some 45 vessels (or 23% of the fleet if you can believe FactCheck.Org) she informed me that there were people from other countries and equipment but no boats. I told her I thought there were some vessels and could she check it out. She put me on hold and came back with a list of offers of foreign assistance (same as the one I provided in a previous post) from the State Department that were in the process of being considered. (See the link to the pdf file below.)

Finally, she found a list of some skimmers and skimmer booms that were being used. It's a pitifully short list.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Alex forced some 500 oil spill response vessels to seek shelter and discontinue operations. This, according to CNN:

Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft told reporters Wednesday. More than 500 oil skimming ships had to return to shore and efforts to burn oil on the surface and break it down through dispersants were put on hold, he said, along with efforts to position a third ship to collect oil at the spill site.

It's not a direct quote, so I don't know if the Admiral actually used the term "ships" but I think it's safe to say not one of the 500 vessels to which he is referring is an actual ship. These are small (less than 100' and probably more like 30') skimming vessels that mostly amount to a pee hole in the snow when faced with a spill of this magnitude.

Here we are at Day 72 or 73. We had a chance to enlist the aid of OSRVs (Oil Spill Recover Vessels), real ships from Norway, Turkey, Qatar, and other places that could have made a significant difference early on, when the spill was at sea in one contiguous slick. Instead, the administration pussyfooted around. When they decided to get tough, they got tough on BP and the rest of the oil industry with a war of words and empty threats. Then they really got tough and started a criminal investigation and placed a moratorium on further exploration and drilling, the latter putting thousands out of work and setting the stage for a potential national oil supply emergency. But they never committed meaningful resources. They never considered temporarily suspending the Jones Act. And they continue to allow restrictive government controls and bureaucratic red tape to impede every practical remediation effort available. I won't go so far as to say the administration is using this crisis for political gain (to strengthen its cap and trade agenda), as many staunch conservative bloggers are saying, but it's hard not to wonder about the President's focus here. In fact, as a perfect example of what I'm talking about, on June 29th the President called a bi-partisan meeting to discuss his climate change agenda, i.e cap and trade. Instead of dealing with this crisis head on, he's using it as a springboard to a bigger and grander thing. For confirmation, read the ABC News report below:

Matthew Jaffe reports:

In the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama today summoned a bipartisan group of over 20 senators to the White House to push for energy and climate change legislation.

But one thing the President did not want to talk about at the meeting was the BP disaster, a Republican source told ABC News. And that, the source said, led to a pointed exchange with GOP senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee.

“The priority should be fixing the oil spill,” Alexander told the President, according to the source. “That's what any meeting about energy should be about.”

But when Alexander tried to interject the BP leak into the meeting, the source said, the President told the senator, “That’s just your talking point.”

Retorted Alexander, “No, it’s my opinion.”

I'm sorry, but these are the actions of an ideologue, not the actions of a practical leader who looks for direct solutions to immediate problems.

One ship that may make a difference, the A Whale (see previous posts) is awaiting approval from the U.S. government to start operations. It's in the Gulf. Arrived yesterday or the day before. It needs EPA and USCG approval and may also need a Jones Act waiver. Let's see how long this takes.


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