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The Department Of Plugging Oil Leaks

When I first heard the comparison of the British Petroleum oil leak in the gulf to the devastating effects of hurricane Katrina I bristled.  I really don’t want people to take this the wrong way.  But really, is this the best some people can do?  I mean a lot of people have been taking pot shots at President Barack Obama before he even took the keys to the White House.  Some full time critics are still complaining that they haven’t seen Mr. Obama’s legitimate birth certificate no matter how often they’ve been told that state officials in Hawaii have confirmed his birth on United States soil.

Now some people want to say that the gulf oil leak is Mr. Obama’s hurricane Katrina moment.  Hurricane Katrina became the epitome of the incompetence of President George H. W. Bush’s administration.  The thinking is that this leak actually reveals the incompetence of Mr. Obama’s administration.

First of all, hurricane Katrina was something that was actually expected.  For years people have been saying that it was only a matter of time before a category maximum hurricane takes a bead on New Orleans and shows how ill prepared that city truly is for this particular type of disaster.  Days before the storm hit meteorologist from the National Weather Service were predicting that the hurricane was going to hit the city.  And little was done from our federal government to prepare for the event.  Consequently, in the aftermath of the hurricane making landfall as a category 4, people devastated by the storm were again devastated by a lack of interest by our federal government in their plight.  With the exception of the Coast Guard, without a doubt one of the finest government agencies ever made, it took four very long days for our government to make a response to the devastation in our own backyard.

Now, it may be true that the gulf oil leak was expected, but for totally different reasons.  People put a lot of faith in our oil exploration and extraction technology.  If the field is oil rich enough, it will be tapped.  A field of oil in ground that is a mile under water can’t hide from our technology.  America has such an insatiable thirst for oil that if the black crude was found in the Lake of Fire in the most miserable part of hell, people would be dying just to get there and be the first to get their hands on it.  Just think of how rich Satan can get if he would sign a lease arrangement.

Offshore oil drilling is dangerous business and accidents do happen.  It was only a matter of time before somebody got sloppy enough, or greedy enough, to throw caution to the wind and make a huge gamble with catastrophic consequences.

But there was no warning.  There was nothing to see coming over the horizon (no pun intended).  The Deepwater Horizon blew up suddenly.  A response was launched immediately.  But hurricane Katrina was a relatively easy fix to a devastating problem.  If I was in charge of the response, I think it would’ve been pretty easy to load trucks with food and water and the National Guard personnel to help with relief efforts.  It shouldn’t have taken four days for people to figure out that people who just had their world turned upside down needed help.

The gulf leak is a totally different animal.  Thanks to technology that can build a spigot to extract oil from a mile underwater, we don’t have the technology to repair a broken spigot a mile underwater.  We are in unchartered territory.  All the assurances the oil drillers gave us that this can be done safely with minimal risk to the environment.  And we bought their sales pitch hook, line, and oil soaked sinker.  After the explosion and the sinking of the drilling rig, the companies involved could only look dumbfounded as they try to figure out how to plug the hole spewing tens of thousands of barrels of oil into the gulf water per day.

If there was a Department of Plugging Oil Leaks and they had the technology to be effective under a mile of water and Mr. Obama simply took his sweet time getting them activated, then yes, this would be his Katrina.  But there is no such department.  The technology to repair this kind of damage did not keep pace with the technology that could cause this disaster.

But one thing that the two events do share is a common root to an attitude that can be summarized as, if it ain’t broken and has already been proven beyond a shadow of doubt that it is going to fail then don’t fix it.  For years people new the levies and locks keeping the water at bay in New Orleans were inadequate.  And people did nothing to stop it.  Similarly, we know for a fact that corporate America puts dollars at the very peak of its list of concerns.  Why would we ever think that we could trust big oil to drill safely and responsibly?

There is some similarity between the two events.  But the idea that this oil leak will become the epitome of Mr. Obama’s incompetence is a bit of a stretch.  There is no one with technology sitting in a warehouse somewhere that can plug this leak.  People are going to have to spend time trying to figure this one out.  And if people want to complain that the government should be doing something, they ought to think about that the next time they want to protest against government getting too big.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 - Posted by | Life, Thoughts

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