Deepwater Horizon: the petro-oligarchs strike back
In the wake of the Louisiana oil spill, Florida's Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Orlando) called for President Barack Obama to reverse his recent executive order to open up areas of the Gulf of Mexico to offshore oil and gas exploration. Nelson also introduced legislation to stop exploration in the Gulf pending an investigation into the Deepwater Horizon incident. The bill would stop the Interior Department from developing a new five-year plan for Gulf drilling and exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf. "Stop the five-year plan on drilling on the offshore continental United States until we get to the bottom of this," he told CNN April 30. (Florida Today, May 1)
The petro-oligarchy has of course wasted no time in striking back. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) insisted that the disaster should not deter off-shore drilling, saying on the Senate floor April 30: "I don’t believe we should retreat." She also tried to minimize the disaster: "What's important about this sheen is that 97% of it is a rainbow sheen. Only 3% contains emulsified crude... So it is important to understand that, while this is an unprecedented disaster—the oil slick is wide and covers a large section of ocean—97% of it is an extremely thin sheen of relatively light oil on the surface." She repeated her call that there be no "retreat" in media appearances including, on CBS' "Face the Nation" May 2.
Karl Grossman on Counterpunch May 3 had some advice for the "Face the Nation" producers:
Host Bob Schieffer might have asked Senator Landrieu whether her position had anything to do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions she receives annually from the oil industry.
If a Face the Nation producer had done a Google search, reports would be found such as on SourceWatch: “Mary Landrieu has received $252,950 in oil contributions during the 110th Congress. $163,000 of those were from industry PACS. In total, Landrieu has accepted $574,000 from oil companies from 2000 to 2008, which makes her one of the highest recipients [in Congress] of oil money."
She did acknowledge in her Senate speech that she is "an unabashed proponent of the [oil] industry." She just didn’t explain the financial arrangement.
H. Sterling Burnett of the "free-market" National Center for Policy Analysis wrote an opinion piece on AolNews, May 3, "Don't Let Deepwater Deep-Six Offshore Drilling." He also paid lip service to the scale of the Gulf disaster—but for him the worst outcome is a potential backlash against drilling:
Another possible loss from the disaster would be if it derails the Obama administration's recently unveiled plan to open new areas to offshore oil and gas production.
Put simply: We need the oil and natural gas off of the US coasts, and offshore drilling is historically the least likely to cause oil spills.
Over the next 20 years, US oil consumption is expected to grow by one-third, even with the passage of climate change legislation and increased use of renewable fuels. Natural gas consumption will grow even more.
Unfortunately, the US remains dependent on foreign nations for a majority of our oil needs. Many of these countries are either politically unstable or have governments that are hostile to US interests.
The US has large deposits of oil offshore. The Minerals Management Service estimates that the US outer continental shelf (OCS) contains more than 46 billion barrels of oil, more than double the current U.S. reserve, and more than 419 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. As much as half of this bounty lies in OCS areas that until recently fell under both congressional and presidential development bans.
Ending the moratorium on new OCS production was among the most responsible actions Washington has taken in the past three decades. President Barack Obama was right to continue along the path started by the Bush administration.
That Burnett is comforted by Obama's policy should be deeply discomforting to the rest of us. The administration's response to the disaster has indeed been modest. The Department of the Interior's Outer Continental Shelf Safety Oversight Board, established by order of Secretary Ken Salazar April 30 in response to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, will "provide recommendations regarding interim measures" to enhance safety in OCS operations. The Oversight Board will also provide oversight of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in its Joint Investigation with the US Coast Guard undertaken into the Deepwater Horizon incident. Secretary Salazar, who made the announcement on a tour of the stricken Louisiana coast, will provide a report to President Obama within 30 days on what, "if any," immediate additional precautions and technologies should be required. (Interior Department press release, April 30)