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Friday, July 02, 2010

Why is the administration so incompetent on the oil spill?

The Heritage Foundation has a 10-point to-do list of what the administration should be doing to address the clean-up in the Gulf. They range from actions like waiving the Jones Act and relaxing some EPA regulations that are preventing clean-up actions. Paul Rubin talks about some of these proposals today in the WSJ.
First, the Environmental Protection Agency can relax restrictions on the amount of oil in discharged water, currently limited to 15 parts per million. In normal times, this rule sensibly controls the amount of pollution that can be added to relatively clean ocean water. But this is not a normal time.

Various skimmers and tankers (some of them very large) are available that could eliminate most of the oil from seawater, discharging the mostly clean water while storing the oil onboard. While this would clean vast amounts of water efficiently, the EPA is unwilling to grant a temporary waiver of its regulations.

Next, the Obama administration can waive the Jones Act, which restricts foreign ships from operating in U.S. coastal waters. Many foreign countries (such as the Netherlands and Belgium) have ships and technologies that would greatly advance the cleanup. So far, the U.S. has refused to waive the restrictions of this law and allow these ships to participate in the effort.

The combination of these two regulations is delaying and may even prevent the world's largest skimmer, the Taiwanese owned "A Whale," from deploying. This 10-story high ship can remove almost as much oil in a day as has been removed in total—roughly 500,000 barrels of oily water per day. The tanker is steaming towards the Gulf, hoping it will receive Coast Guard and EPA approval before it arrives.

In addition, the federal government can free American-based skimmers. Of the 2,000 skimmers in the U.S. (not subject to the Jones Act or other restrictions), only 400 have been sent to the Gulf. Federal barriers have kept the others on stations elsewhere in case of other oil spills, despite the magnitude of the current crisis. The Coast Guard and the EPA issued a joint temporary rule suspending the regulation on June 29—more than 70 days after the spill.
The question that Rubin then raises is why is the administration so incompetent. Why aren't they addressing these complaints much faster? Rubin sees three explanations - these people are just incompetent, the administration is more concerned about its supporters such as labor or the environmentalists than the ongoing crisis, or the incompetence is deliberate so that the Obama administration can take advantage of this crisis to pass their desired environmental regulations. I'm not cynical enough to ascribe to the latter proposition. I could believe a combination of the first two reasons plus the fact that the federal government is just so unwieldy that one area doesn't know what the other area is doing. People don't anticipate the roadblocks that the EPA puts up until it all comes to light. And this is where the administration's executive incompetence comes in. They need to be down in the trenches figuring out how the EPA or other agencies are blocking the clean-up and then getting Obama to issue executive orders to speed things up. But that would require him to be much more engaged with the efforts than he seems to be. Yes, the environmental groups might be upset about waiving regulations here and there but they're not going to make a big deal about something that the American people would be so broadly behind - cleaning up the dang oil as fast as possible.


Johanna Lapp said...

Funny, Obama didn't seem quite so opposed to help from foreign volunteers during his campaign, when his web site accepted campaign contributions from anonymous overseas credit cards.

Maybe the skimmer ship should replace its Taiwanese flag with an Obama campaign banner. Obstacle solved!

Skay said...

Louisiana is a right to work state.

The unions are not happy about that and Obama is in the pocket of the unions thugs.

pumping-irony said...

I agree about the 3rd option, but only because that would imply an ability to plan and forsee the consequences of actions, something that has not been in evidence so far. Besides, Obama is too busy putting to get involved in stuff like that.

John A said...

The agencies, such as the EPA, are enforcing the rules. But I have not heard that a single agency has asked PotUS for permission to relax the rules for, say, six months - that is coming from outside.

Oh, and the EPA is - as, admittedly, it recently said it would - dropping an agreement in place since 1994, which will result in many of the refineries still operating in Texas shutting down.

Timothy Lee said...

Regarding the USCG and the life vests. By day 3, some coast guardsman should have been down to Walmart with the standard issue government charge card and bought a load of vests and extinguishers to hand out. By day 74, every USCG vessel should have a stash of vests and fire extinguishers to hand out.

Let's be proactive out there! Anticipate and prepare solutions. This isn't business as usual.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

two posts by Betsy:

Friday, July 02, 2010
Why is the administration so incompetent on the oil spill?


Tuesday, June 01, 2010
The government can't do everything

With all this talk about whether or not the oil spill in the Gulf will be "Obama's Katrina," I'm struck by the widely accepted belief that somehow it is up to the president to fix such a disaster. In a way, Obama is suffering for the perception that he's supported his entire political life that, when there is a crisis, the government, particularly the federal government should be the one to rescue us.

Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I don't remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill sparking all sorts of calls for what President Bush was going to do to fix the problem.

but i guess BP's response to the disaster it created is a wonderful example of the efficiency of private industry, which is always so much better than anything that government can do - right?

drill, baby, drill!

Rick Caird said...

Black Knight (also known as TV),

As I recall, the Exxon Valdez spill was the catalyst that put the Federal government in charge of cleanup and mitigating the spill.

Actually, if BP were in charge we would have the skimmers running, the booms in place, and the sand barriers built. It is the federal government that is both in charge and hampering the reaction.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Rick Caird said...
Actually, if BP were in charge we would have the skimmers running, the booms in place, and the sand barriers built.

apparantly it was too much trouble for you to find out that BP is already heavily involved in screwing up the cleanup, just like it is screwing up the well-capping. less than two minutes on the google yields, for starters:

BP says it has some oil skimmers back out on the seas off the coasts of Alabama and Louisiana after rough conditions churned up by Hurricane Alex kept them ashore.

Keith Seilhan, BP's incident commander for Mobile, said Friday that boats were working in limited numbers in protected waters. He says the size of the fleet will increase dramatically as sea conditions calm down.

He says "we are not going to sit around if we can be working."

The lack of cleaning vessels combined with unfavorable weather meant more oil was being pushed farther onto beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.

G.G. Vassallo, a deputy chief of the operation, says some oil-spotting airplanes and helicopters also had returned to the air after being grounded by Alex.

In other news, BP and the Obama administration face mounting complaints that they are ignoring foreign offers of equipment and making little use of the fishing boats and volunteers available to help clean up what may now be the biggest spill ever in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

p.s., same article:

And in recent days and weeks, for reasons BP has never explained, many fishing boats hired for the cleanup have done a lot of waiting around.

tfhr said...

Rick Caird,

Another Black Knight smack down!
(You're putting me out of a job)


Nice of you to join the a relevant way...finally. You didn't last long though unless Rick Caird only delivered a flesh wound, in your opinion.

So let me get this straight: When the administration makes every effort to expand government to cover greater and greater measures of responsibility and then promptly fails to meet a challenge where it could exert some degree of leadership, we should not express our doubts about the efficacy of BIG GOVERNMENT?!

I expect the Federal Government to engage in foreign policy where the states cannot. But it seems that our President turned down the technical assistance offered by more than fifteen countries immediately after the Deep Horizon exploded. Do you ever wonder why?

The Federal Government could and should help the states but look at the reality of the situation. The adjunct elements of the Federal Government that have been involved, "since day one", have been anything but coordinated in the effort to speed relief and assist clean-up. Leadership has been sorely lacking at the national level but let's be clear here: The Federal Government has actually been an obstacle to the states when the latter have attempted to protect their respective shores, fisheries, and marshlands.

One more thing:
Regulate, baby, regulate! (Does your car run on reams of regulations or does it run on gasoline?)

Tacitus Voltaire said...

But it seems that our President turned down the technical assistance offered by more than fifteen countries immediately after the Deep Horizon exploded. Do you ever wonder why?

don't pat yourself on the back too sson - the progressive blogs have been full of exactly this question for weeks now, and are none too pleased with the obama administration's actions here

you have a big problem, that you all refuse to recognise, in that you have absolutely no idea what progressives believe or discuss - this is blindingly clear from the idiotic ideas you all are constantly attributing to us

just one example - when i report back to the progressive blogs i frequent that you guys here say things like "progressives believe that islam is the religion of peace", and that you all think we actually like muslim fanatic terrorists, the progressives on these blogs can hardly believe that anybody would believe something that stupid. um, didn't you ever notice that progressives don't like people who perpetrate violence, and also hate religious fanatics of any kind? never noticed that? eh? why am i not surprised...

on the other hand, as you clearly don't know since finding out would apparantly hurt your brain, on progressive blogs we all study your "conservative" discussions and beliefs obsessively - too obsessively, really. i read everything posted here, and also keep an eye on free republic. not to mention all of the clowns on fox news and right wing radio

the tea party is the symptom that you all might be finally, after 30 years, be twigging to the fact that republican office holders don't believe the lies that they have been feeding you - you got as far as figuring out that when we had a republican administration as well as a republican congress they "didn't deliver conservatism". get a hint!

what do progressives really think about tea party members? that they are mostly (excluding the bad element that you really ought to read out of the party) very nice, well meaning, idealistic people who are so utterly, unbelievably gullible that they believe all the idiotic lies coming out of the republican party

now, get out of your bubble and learn something for a change - it's the patriotic thing to do!

tfhr said...


Why do you immediately devolve down to a discussion about party politics?

This is a post about the Gulf. I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that this might just be a situation where partisan politics could be placed on the back burner in favor of marshaling resources to deal with the oil slicks and the well. Don't you get it?

Really. Which is more important to you? Oil flowing into the Gulf and onto the shores or some perceived slight you feel has somehow demeaned your political ideal? I ask because it appears to me that the politics take precedent.

When the day arrives that you can identify a problem without the assistance of "progressive blogs", you may even be able to fathom what might be done to correct said problem. Until then, just let the Progressive blogs tell you what to think.

"Study" on, Progressive.

tfhr said...


I know your love of party politics dictates a keen reverence for polling, so I thought I'd include this one for your review:

So here is the Don Surber Poll of nobody with a margin of error of ±73.2%:

1. Is Barack Obama doing a good job?

Democrats: Yes.
Republicans: No.
Independents: Undecided.

2. Where was Obama born?

Conservatives: Kenya.
Moderates: Hawaii.
Liberals: In a manger.

3. Who is the woman you admire most?

Liberals: Michelle Obama.
Conservatives: Sarah Palin.
Gay men: Liza Minnelli.

4. Is Obama a socialist?

Democrats: No.
Republicans: No.
Independents: Not sure.

4A. If you said Obama is not a socialist, what is he?

Democrats: Moderate.
Republicans: Communist.
Independents: Still not sure.

5. How much is $1 trillion plus $2 trillion?

Conservatives: $3 trillion.
Moderates: $3 trillion.
Liberals: Less than the billions we spent on Iraq.

6. Who is the most evil man on the planet?

Conservatives: Osama bin Laden.
Moderates: The umpire who cost that pitcher his perfect game.
Liberals: Trick question. It should say men: Dick Cheney, Glenn Beck and that guy who cost the pitcher his perfect game.

7. Are we in a recession?

People working for a company: I hope not.
People without a job: Yes.
People who work for the government: No, now give me a raise.

8. Ginger or Mary Ann?

Most men: Mary Ann.
A few men: Ginger.
John Kerry: Mrs. Howell.

It's real. Trust me. Here's a handy link:

equitus said...

I had to chuckle when I heard TV claim that he "reports back" to liberal blogs about what we conservatives think.

From what I can tell, TV almost never "gets it" - he consistently fails to understand the beliefs and motivations that underlie our political philosophies. He demonstrates this time and time again, yet believes he's figured it out. Almost no self-awareness...

Is is but to laugh.

Back on topic: I don't think many of us expect the federal government to solve the problem. I do expect the government to get out of the way while state and local entities do what they can to ameliorate the problem - assisting where possible, providing resources, expediting processes. Unfortunately, Obama's power-hungry gang can't let a crisis go to waste, expanding it's grip and control, and so the disaster has been compounded.