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Monday, May 24, 2010

Get the velvet boot off BP's neck and plant a cement one on its butt

How to clean the oily pelican feather in the administration's cap


Five weeks into the worst eco-disaster in US history, and things are getting worse. For the first few days after the April 20 explosion on the Deep Horizon vessel/rig/platform, bloggers and pundits were already criticizing the administration, hyperbolically calling the looming problem "Obama's Katrina."

It was early then, and there was still some hope Washington, DC, could stem the black tide before it reached the delicate ecosystem of the Gulf Coast, so comparisons to W's reaction to the 2005 hurricane were certainly overstatements - at the time. Now, the only thing that separates this terrible event from the Katrina catastrophe is that after the hurricane, Bush and Cheney were purposely delaying aid, trying to find ways that their deep pocket special interests could make money on the deal. Obama and company are not on that agenda - they are simply at a loss.

The fountain of oil flowing at a diarrheatic pace from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico is washing up on Louisiana shores, killing fish and particularly rare pelicans. The governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal (R), is complaining, the people who earn their livelihood from those waters are frustrated and environmentalists are seething. They are all wondering, what is the federal government going to do?

Keeping its "boot on the neck of BP" is an expression of policing - not a course of action. Look, I know Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is not just picking up the phone to BP CEO Tony Hayward every couple of hours asking, "Are we there yet," but these are extraordinary circumstances requiring the quicker than the tortoise-like, business-as-usual approach for which Washington is infamous.

What are they waiting for?

My thought is that BP feels like as long as it is getting some oil out through the bendy-straw thing and into its tanker, then it will wait to cap the leak until after the tanker is full. Even the hose - which has not even been able to slow the gusher - "began sucking up oil at a slower rate over the weekend," AP reported. Once the tanker is full, I conjecture, BP will make an effort at capping, which is why I believe the action was delayed until the middle of this week. (I admit I have no evidence for this. It's just a scenario that makes some sense to me.)

So what to do? It seems all we can do is wait until BP pays what it says will be "all reasonable claims" stemming from the unstemmed flow - whatever they (and the courts) decide "reasonable" means. To hold them to it, I propose the following, until BP cleans up the mess:
  1. seize the full tanker, and put the oil in the Strategic Oil Reserves;
  2. fine BP - retroactively - the rate they were paying Transocean for the lease on the platform, which is reported to be $500,000 per day (definitely not a typo!); and
  3. ensure that no federal fleets use BP/Amoco petroleum based fuels.

Additionally, Congress should enact new legislation that charges an additional cleanup insurance fee on top of the offshore leasing royalties, which could go down in time if the operator has a clean record for a particular number of years. Also, re-examine the entire royalty process - it is an obvious conflict of interest.

Maybe if we keep our foot up Big Oil's ass, it will be harder to kiss it.

-PBG
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