I ask that only half-tongue in cheek, because right now I am ready to put the whole Executive Branch on trial, from Obama down to the night janitor. Time and again in the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill disaster, we’ve been treated to one mind-boggling example of hitherto unimaginable ineptitude after another. First there was the overall lackadaisical response. Then we learned of miles of containment boom sitting in Maine, unused and unwanted, even though the scale of the disaster called for every square foot of it and more.
Now comes the capper. Word has been going around for weeks that foreign governments had offered their expertise and equipment to help deal with the crisis. As I said at the time:
When your neighbor offers to help put out a fire on your property, don’t you say “yes, thanks?”
Hell yes you do!
Guess what? It’s worse than we thought and the idiot lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:
In sharp contrast to Dutch preparedness before the fact and the Dutch instinct to dive into action once an emergency becomes apparent, witness the American reaction to the Dutch offer of help. The U.S. government responded with “Thanks but no thanks,” remarked Visser, despite BP’s desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer –the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment –unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.
Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn’t good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million — if water isn’t at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.
When ships in U.S. waters take in oil-contaminated water, they are forced to store it. As U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the official in charge of the clean-up operation, explained in a press briefing on June 11, “We have skimmed, to date, about 18 million gallons of oily water–the oil has to be decanted from that [and] our yield is usually somewhere around 10% or 15% on that.” In other words, U.S. ships have mostly been removing water from the Gulf, requiring them to make up to 10 times as many trips to storage facilities where they off-load their oil-water mixture, an approach Koops calls “crazy.”
The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer — but only partly. Because the U.S. didn’t want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.
A catastrophe that could have been averted is now playing out.
Funny. I thought it was the American instinct to “dive into action” in an emergency. I guess it goes dormant whenever we have a President who’s “too cool to care.”
Meanwhile, the Gulf states are seeing their beaches destroyed and economies ruined in a disaster that could have been prevented, all because we first turned down the best available help and then dragged our feet after accepting it to appease labor unions. This lack of urgency and initiative and any sense of priorities falls squarely at the feet of President Obama, who could have set relief efforts in motion much faster had he actually kicked some bureaucratic tail, instead of just talking about it.
But that would interrupt tee-time, wouldn’t it?
Tell you what, Mr. President. You go golfing, but, before you leave, how about putting someone in charge of this who actually knows what to do to clean up the mess?
After all, she was right about the Dutch.
Pardon me, but I need to pull my hair out.