When Obama critics ask questions like, “Is the gulf oil spill Obama’s Katrina?” what are they really talking about? I mean, besides the standard “my guy good, your guy bad” stuff.
First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Hurricane Katrina was a natural phenomenon albeit with some difficulties that were exacerbated by man-made contributing factors, like designing and building a major city that is protected by levees and flood walls. “The Gulf oil spill” aka “the Deepwater Horizon oil spill” is solely a man-made phenomenon.
So Hurricane Katrina was a natural phenomenon and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a man-made one.
Here in Abyssia (my home nation) we have a simple law. It goes like this:
Private companies are not permitted to engage in any activity where the potential damages that might be caused exceeds the sum total of the company’s resources.
In other words, when the damage that might be done by a private enterprise is so extreme that it can’t be permitted to exist, then non-government operations must not be allowed to operate in that field. That is because when things go wrong, it is the government that will have to take care of the fix.
Why allow a private company to operate and make a profit when it doesn’t have the ability to be responsible for the damages it might cause? That just doesn’t make sense.
“Listen. We’re going to run a racket that will make us filthy rich. The downside is that if things go badly, we’ll be wiped out and we’ll take the whole planet, a country, or an entire ocean with us. We’ve thought it over. Hard. And golly gee. It turned out that we’re willing to take that risk. Even if it means we only get rich for a little while.”
What will the ultimate cost of the BP oil spill disaster be? And will it be BP or our government (aka you and me) that picks up the tab? What if the cost exceeds the total value of the BP Corporation? (The corporation had assets of about $236 billion in 2009.) Then what happens? In a case like that, even if BP wanted to do what was right (highly unlikely), it would lack the capacity to execute. It would be like pooping in one hand and wishing in the other – all you’d end up with would be a handful of poop.
The United States can sure cut off its nose to spite its face. You have something called the Oil Pollution Act that caps “environmental damages” at $75 million. How fucking ridiculous is that? Why not trying capping damages at, say, oh, I don’t know — the actual freakin’ amount?!?!?!?
“I’m so sorry I smashed your car, old chap. The government, though, acts as my body guard and caps my responsibility for all damages I cause at $75. Here’s a personal check. Don’t worry, it’s good. Sorry about the Rolls Royce and all that. Cheerio!”
Let’s compare the $75 million limit on environmental damages to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In that case the cleanup effort cost Exxon $2.5 billion and an additional $1.1 billion in various settlements. That’s out of pocket damages of about $3.6 billion to Exxon. It makes the $75 million cap seem pretty tiny, eh?
How much more expensive will it be in the gulf oil spill? Yeah, $75 million is going to go a long, long way, I’m sure.
What are “environmental damages” anyway, and how are they calculated?
Cost estimates of damage to the environment may be underestimated significantly by those charged with putting a price tag on ecological disasters. According to Daniel W. Bromley, a resource economist and former director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Environment Studies, the consequences from mishaps such as groundwater pollution and oil and chemical spills may be off by a factor of three to five, meaning estimates of perceived damage could be millions or tens of millions of dollars too low in a given situation. “Damages can be estimated in different ways. It all depends on what questions are asked” and what criteria are applied by the courts and policymakers. (Source.)
Oh? Policymakers get to determine the “criteria?” Cue the oil industry lobbyists and the “we’re too big to fail” whining and, of course, the “we’re so important to national security” blather. You know, you might have a point there but your touching concern for national security just doesn’t ring true when it is your wallet that hangs in the balance.
It is being reported that Obama now “strongly supports” raising the cap on environmental damages. Wow. How nice. Of course, that’s a move that can only come from Congress. Oops.
Why in the name of all that is holy would you deliberately go out of your way to set up a system that says a commercial enterprise can engage in an activity and cause damages with not end in sight yet at the same time cap the amount of damages for which they can be held accountable? Oh, that’s right. We don’t want government to be a “daddy” and regulate or otherwise hinder a “free market.” We just want it there to pick up the tab when the shit goes sideways. We wouldn’t want a company that large to fail, would we?
Some of Obama’s most vociferous critics are those that call him a “socialist” ad infinitum. So, if they don’t like “socalism” what do they like? A free market system. They typically oppose government regulations and interference in the world of business. They frequently complain about the “nanny state” and regulations and say that government should not be a “daddy” in our lives. The free market, they claim, will take care of itself. The free market is very self-correcting, they say. Sure, there may the occasional “problem” here and there but in the long term the free market will work those problems out on its own.
Too bad those free market corrections can be exponentially destructive. Sure the system usually works itself out but at what cost? Human lives, pain and suffering, lost retirements, lost homes, lost careers, etc. Don’t worry, your life was just destroyed but a little “correction.” I’m sure that makes you feel better.
So, how then, I ask, how will the “free market” rise to the unique challenge presented by the gulf oil spill? Where is the “profit” in being one hundred percent responsible and accountable for your mistakes? What if the cost of the fix simply cannot be covered by those responsible?
If a private enterprise can’t or won’t fix the damage it has caused, and if the consequences are too serious to the entire freakin’ planet, then it is that evil boogieman called “government” that has to ride in like John Wayne and save the day. Yee haw.
Suddenly it’s ok to say, “Fuck the free market. Looks like we need daddy government after all. We need daddy to clean up the mess we made. Oh, boo boo.” Sounds remarkably like a gerbil in my humble opinion. “I want all the good times but I don’t want to be responsible. Whaaaaaa!”
I guess we can always choose to do nothing, just sit back and allow corporations to continue to wreck our planet until there is nothing left to wreck. Some day the profits will run out, but what a wild ride it will be for the few who benefited along the way. I’m sure we can all adapt to breathing fire and replacing oxygen with oil. Perhaps some specialized genetically-installed oil-breathing gills from the BP research and development team will solve that problem? Hell, it might even be an improvement on the reality we currently have. “I want to breath oil and fire, I say!”
So, what do we know about the accident that led to the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon and the worst man-made ecological disaster of all time?
Simple statistics tell us the odds of a Deepwater Horizon are about 100 percent. That’s because the event happened. So in this instance the chances are a certainty.
What we don’t know is how likely was this disaster? Was this a one-in-a-million freak confluence of events where everything that could go wrong did? Or was this accident not really an “accident” at all? Did BP go above and beyond to take all reasonable precautions to prevent a disaster like this? Were all the laws obey? Were proper safeguards devised and employed?
Somehow, based on what actually happened, I sincerely doubt it.
There are really two issues here. The first is the weak and watered-down regulations regarding off-shore oil drilling that government actually has on the books. As in the case of most laws, I’d wager these were probably written with the direct buy-in and/or control of industry and that, additionally, they are likely to be woefully unenforced, if at all. The second issue is the safety controls self-regulated by industry – what precautions they feel are prudent. No big surprise if these fall short, right?
The scuba industry regulated itself. It has worked very well for a long time. When it doesn’t work well, a single dumb ass human usually dies. When an oil rig suffers a catastrophic failure, the consequences are a wee bit higher, like, perhaps, the lose of an entire ocean. Maybe we shouldn’t trust self-regulation quite so much.
So the question remains: Were all the reasonable precautions taken in the case of the Deepwater Horizon? Government officials are now talking tough in the media that criminal charges will be brought if it is determined that laws were broken. Yeah, right. Perhaps they’ll find a scapegoat or two but the people really responsible will get a slap on the wrist (if anything at all) and will be allowed to go on raping the planet and their fellow man in the name of being wealthy beyond avarice.
Can the BP Deepwater oil spill be Obama’s Katrina? Some media reports run counter to this criticism. The Obama administration may have made some missteps but a comparison attempting to cast Obama’s response in the same vein as Bush to Katrina is not useful and may not even be accurate.
Secondly, one was a natural disaster and one was man-made. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, Obama critics. You can’t say, “Keep daddy government out of free market and things like oil drilling. We need less regulations. Let the free market work. Oops. Oil rig went boom boom. We can’t fix. Please, government, come save our bacon.”
If enterprises like banks and oil companies can’t clean up their own messes and are “too big to fail” and are utterly destroying one of our planet’s oceans, then I submit they shouldn’t be allowed to engage in an enterprise where they can’t control and fix the outcomes they have produced.
Image Credit: U.S. Coast Guard
Im just glad he finds time to fit in golf, vacation time and various events at the White House honoring college baskball teams and such. Screwing over the country takes a toll on poor al-Thuggy, he deserves such distractions.
Really? You didn’t disagree with anything I wrote?
Personally I wish we would golf 24 7. That way the only thing he can destroy is his golf club because he gets pissed off that all his balls shank wide left.
“Now that’s what I call multitasking and prioritization!”
Marxist always find time to control, its in their DNA. But hey, some people just hate freedom. But look at the bright side, if the government gets enough control of BP, maybe it will get unlimited tax payer money like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Bet you would like that, huh?
I couldn’t agree more that an industry that has the potential to cause this much damage should NOT be regulating itself. This incident is such a tragedy of unbelievable proportions that I don’t even know where to begin…
Speaking of distractions…
It seems the oil industry isn’t that worried about the oil spill after all. Like Obama who finds time to fit in other activities, the oil spill seems to be newly energized. Here’s a sample headline:
“Oil Companies Weigh Strategies to Fend Off Tougher Regulations”
Now that’s what I call multitasking and prioritization! 🙂
“I couldn’t agree more that an industry that has the potential to cause this much damage should NOT be regulating itself.”
Who regulates the government? Or do they get a pass on the destruction it inflicts?
“Who regulates the government?”
I’m no expert but, I would think that would be the people who do or don’t vote for them?
“Or do they get a pass on the destruction it inflicts?”
No more or less of a pass than anyone else does. Well, assuming voters don’t let them get a pass.
I’ll be honest with you. I have been “boiling mad” and acrimoniously livid about the oil spill but I haven’t until now really looked into it too much.
Can we assume that stopping the spill is a top priority for BP? Quite simply, no, we can’t. We can assume their top priority is the same as always: profit. That really is the one and only reason that BP exists at all. Period. For ever and ever amen.
If stopping the spill isn’t their priority, then what is? For one thing, getting their grubby hands on as much of that grubby product as possible. I’m beginning to suspect that some of their efforts are designed to salvage and not stop.
What if there was a way to stop the spill immediately but it hasn’t been tried yet? Maybe it would even be easier. But it wouldn’t be among the first six options tried since it would stop the profits, too. That would be sad, eh? Of course failure wouldn’t bother BP since their damage is already capped at $75 million. So why try a profit killing option until you absolutely have no other choice?
By the way, I heard an oil industry guy say that a relief well would cost them about $100 million. So doing the right thing up front is out since letting the environment eat it is the cheaper option (i.e. the $75 million cap on environmental damages).
“Marxist always find time to control, its in their DNA. But hey, some people just hate freedom.”
Ok, Elric. I’ll bite. What, if anything, do you think should be done about the oil spill? The government should just shrug and say, “Bummer, dude. Maybe oil surfing can become a trendy new sport?”
You want to make this about “control?” I’d argue it’s a lack of control that caused the spill in the gulf.
Do you think it is okay for a corporation to cause environmental damages of $20 billion or more but only be accountable for the first $75 million then get a free pass after that? Here’s an important question for you: Why shouldn’t the corporation be responsible for all the damage it causes, not just the first $75 million?
Why should the government have to act like an insurance company for a corporation that is out to make money while at the same time doesn’t want to be accountable for their own mistakes? For the exercise of that “freedom” (as you put it)?
There are some pretty important questions as the oil industry flexes its muscles, prepares its strategies for total resistance to any regulations, and will invade Washington with an army of lobbyists to influence the people with who hold the power to raise the damage cap.
Meanwhile every day we quibble an ocean is dying. The livelihoods of many Americans in the region are threatened.
“Who regulates the government? Or do they get a pass on the destruction it inflicts?”
Thanks, Elric, for the reminder. I was going to mention this in the original post and I forgot.
What is the difference between government and business? In short, one exists for the public good and one exists for profit. Those are two very different and incompatible objectives.
I believe that some things are simply too important to be left to business. What we’re beginning to see is a trend. A few profit obscenely from an enterprise, cause destruction, then get bailed out by the government. This is not a very efficient way to run an economy. And an evil minority prospers at the expense of an innocent majority.
Ultimately I think the only conclusion can be that the “free market” is seriously fucked up.
We should really look into stopping that trend.
Looks like someone else is asking the same kind of questions. Woot!
How Soon Until the Free Market Stops the Oil Spill?
I found this link after I wrote my post. It is refreshing to see someone who can communicate some of my ideas better than I can! 🙂
I agree 100% with you point by point. This whole situation enrages me. I can’t drive down the street without wearing my seat-belt and any new car can’t be manufactured without an air-bag, yet BP can drill an oil well in the ocean floor without first making sure that there are safety measures (plural – more than one) put in place?
I agree that all the initial efforts to stop the leak were also trying to salvage the operation and that’s one reason why they all failed. When a boat is sinking you don’t swim under it and try to hold it afloat. You bail out to save yourself and let the sucker sink.
I agree, Amy. Very insightful. I also had the thought that me, as an individual person, is more regulated than a company like BP with the capacity to destroy an entire ocean.
I mean, what in the world can I do, aside from irritate Elric? 🙂
“Click It or Ticket” was already scheduled for a future blog post and I think will dovetail with this quite nicely. Thanks!
I love watching you irritate Elric. Better than pay-per-view!
Click It or Ticket pisses me off, too. Can’t wait to read what you have to say about it.
“Who regulates the government? Or do they get a pass on the destruction it inflicts?”
I think Just Me had a brilliant reply. I’d simply add: “Have you seen the destruction from BP???”
A message needs to be sent to the entire oil industry. You screw up like this, you’re done. BP should not be allowed to drill on US property again until the gulf is restored to the state that it was in prior to the incident. It doesn’t matter how much that costs or how long it takes. In the mean time, other oil companies can move in to fill the gap, but they’ll do so knowing they face the same penalty. Right now, penalties for obliterating the environment are ridiculous. And BP was trying to bill itself as the “environmentally friendly oil company.” GEEZ!
I totally agree that they should pay for the entire thing – all of it. Why shouldn’t they? This is bullshit.
I agree with you agreeing with me. 🙂 No, seriously, it doesn’t matter which company it is they must be held accountable.
Regulations alone don’t work. There has to be enforcement. And that is expensive.
In my opinion the sheer size of mistakes ultimately must mean that private enterprise must not be allowed to engage in this activity. Their run should be over.
What is so sickening is that all of these entities are tied together –Goldman Sachs, BP, the Chicago Climate Exchange, the current administration, the last administration. Us poor suckers out here don’t stand a chance. I don’t think BP deliberately is slowly the capping of the well so that they can use the toxic dispersant COREXIT, but NALCO (partly owned by Goldman Sachs) is sure making a tankerload of money from the use of COREXIT. Warren Buffett is a major investor. There are many Goldman Sachs people in Obama’s administration. It’s all just too cozy for me.
Here’s Jon Stewart’s take on the Administration’s leadership.
I agree. Why worry about how the grand tapestry of everything is woven together when the long arm of the law has time to worry about my seat belt?
I like the way you ferret out some of the other angles.
Did BP go for the most immediate and best fix first or have they been dragging their feet and still trying to salvage some bucks? The latter would not surprise me. However my statements are purely based on logical speculation and have no actual confirmation. Call them personal pet theories if you will. Or guesstimates. 🙂
I loved the Daily Show video. Thanks for that! I do think that “Obama played golf!” is a bit of a strawman argument. Just like “Al Gore flies in a plane, rides in a car, and has lights at his house!” Ohmygosh! 🙂 What’s he supposed to do? Travel the world in horse and buggy?
“Hey, look! Obama went potty on May 7th – and get this – the oil spill still hasn’t been fixed!” 🙂
But it does make for fantastic comedy and Jon Stewart delivers it to perfection.
Sorry, it’s not a strawman.
Did Obama really need to do a couple of fund-raisers for Boxer, including one at the Getty Oil mansion with the Getty family.
As for Gore, now we see why he needed that 9 million mansion and estate in Santa Barbara. He’s moving there after the split with his wife, doubling their carbon footprint.
I read this whole post, and I love it – – great points…
BUT I am still stuck on this…
“Is the gulf oil spill Obama’s Katrina?”
Someone’s actually said this? And thinks the comparison makes sense? Really?
Yeah, I know. The first time I heard that I rolled my eyes and said, “Ah geez.” And no, I don’t live in Fargo. 🙂
Google News search: Obama’s Katrina
The latest is that the gulf oil spill is Obama’s Iran Hostage Crisis. A lot of people will be too young to remember that.
The people in the gulf are pretty damned mad at the slow response.
This may be more accurately describe Obama’s situation:
Forget Katrina: Is BP Obama’s Waterloo?
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 2, 2010; 8:26 AM
P.S. I apologize for you reading the whole post. This was “keyboard monkey” extraordinaire. 🙂
Hey! I love your posts!
Re: Strawman. I really appreciate your opinion, you know I do, yet I think it is a logical fallacy to suggest that Obama must do nothing except work on the oil spill or that somehow proves some other point. I think that is false logic.
It’s not false logic. Come on, you know I’m right. You just like playing that old devil’s advocate. The point that MANY MANY MANY people (And these include his sychophants) are making that Obama is not leading. (See Howard Kurtz WaPo link above.) Obama admitted that he’d left the problem in BP’s hands, and it wasn’t until the media started yapping about Obama’s ineptitude in at least checking it out that Obama woke up and saw that the media wasn’t adoring him as much as usual.
Brian Williams, who actually bowed to Obama once, said it was the media attention that forced Obama to act (heard in the clip below.) Williams said that on the day the oil well explosion occurred, Williams said it was his lead story and he predicted on DAY ONE that this could be one of the worst environmental catastrophes of all time. Maybe no one in the White House watches the news, unless it’s Obama’s poll numbers. We know they don’t get the facts before they comment. Hey, well Obama has to work on his short game, man. Has to get in some chipping. Had to start memorizing Beatles songs for old Sir Paul’s visit.
Why do we have a president? He’s not some glorified Miss America going to every Party in town. He needs to roll up his sleeves and use the power of his office to get the bureaucrats moving.
Human beings were dying in New Orleans while they waited for response from an expected event.
So glad I am going to New Orleands June 16th…. 0.o
You should bring me with. In aquatic emergencies I can be used as a flotation device.
Katrina? Waterloo? Iran Hostage Crisis? Monica Lewinsky? Pearl Harbor?
The gulf oil spill is Obama’s _____.
This must be a trendy new drinking game. Someone comes up with the Katrina comparison then the dreaded MSM and the blogsphere run with it and next thing you know the gulf oil spill is Obama’s moon landing hoax.
Catherine: “It’s not false logic. Come on, you know I’m right.”
Of course I do! But can’t we both be right at the same time?
So Obama admitted he initially left the problem in BP’s hands. Can you blame him? He’s probably the one of the most “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” presidents of all time. Let’s say Obama pulls a hair trigger and leads the government up that hill and right into the morass of a private company’s problem. Do you think his critics might use that as an opening to criticism? You can bet your oil pipe they would. Does Government Motors ring a bell?
Look at the context. The guy has been burned at the stake for something like 17 months for being a “socialist” by people who can barely grok what that word even means. Being burned alive sort of gets your attention, ya know? Maybe he was hoping (as he probably should) that the corporation would handle it properly and he wouldn’t be promoted to being slow roasted on a spit. It turns out that was a bad move in this particular case, because that’s primarily because BP sucks it hard, but can you really blame Obama all that much based on what was known at the time and the context of omnipresent and unprecedented “socialist” criticism he has been subjected to? I don’t think so.
It is not Obama’s fault that BP sucks it hard.