In watching a CNN anchor interview the promoter of "Hands of Across the Sand" who called for ways to reduce our oil and gas use sooner rather than later, the anchor ended the interview by saying, "But oil will be a part of the American fabric for many years to come"
We ask WHY?
Part of the reason can be seen in the informative editorial of the Orlando Sentinel today
The Obama administration acknowledges that the surest way to fix the problems surrounding the disaster in the Gulf isn't to simply plug the breeched Deepwater Horizon well as planned in August, but to end the perverse relationship between government and the oil industry.
It says it will do that by breaking apart and retooling the corrupt and wholly ineffectual Minerals Management Service, whose employees shamelessly cozied up to the oil industry, resulting in a twisted embrace that enabled rather than regulated the industry.
The phony environmental reviews, the failure to probe the veracity of industry applications, the far-too-infrequent inspections of the rigs and their safeguards, we're told, soon should be a thing of the past.
We'd like to believe that. But a few news items this past week reveal how deep are government's connections to Big Oil, and why those connections will be so hard to overcome. We're reminded how the U.S. missions into Iraq and Afghanistan won't bring about fundamental changes unless people there buy into them, and that could take several more years if not decades. Getting officials in this country to accept the need to strengthen government's regulation of the oil industry and to lessen its dependence on it could prove as difficult.
Let's start with federal Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans, who quashed the administration's sensible six-month moratorium on offshore drilling, which would have halted approval of any new permits for deepwater operations and suspended drilling on 33 exploratory wells. It wouldn't have affected rigs already in production. The administration rightly noted how it makes no sense to green-light deepwater projects before the government knows what went wrong with BP's operation of the Deepwater Horizon rig.
But Mr. Feldman called the moratorium "punitive," and said it would cause irrevocable harm to the economy. A ridiculous contention, since the president already got BP to commit to a $100 million compensation fund for oil rig workers affected by the moratorium; and because the economic damage caused by a single spill like BP's can easily trump the economic harm from suspending a few dozen drilling projects.
Most disturbing in Mr. Feldman's ruling, however, is his connection to the region's drilling culture. At least as recently as 2008, he reported owning stock in numerous companies involved in offshore drilling, including Transocean, which leased the rig to BP.
The government is right to appeal, but who will hear it? Finding a fair venue might not come easily. More than half the federal judges in several districts in Gulf states have financial ties to energy industries, including oil and gas.
Also mired in oil are several of the Gulf's governors, whose states are heavily vested in drilling operations. Mississippi's Haley Barbour and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal both criticized the Obama administration for what they consider its belated and begrudging response to the spill. Fair enough. Yet both men this past week criticized the moratorium, which could lead to new safety measures preventing future spills.
But kicking the deepwater drilling habit isn't coming easily to the Obama administration, either. McClatchy/Tribune News reported this week that even though MMS announced tougher safety regulations, the agency this month signed off on at least five new offshore drilling applications. Two are deepwater projects that got the same exemptions from doing environmental studies that MMS handed BP for Deepwater Horizon.
The nation needs to kick the habit, but it won't if the government sends mixed signals, or the wrong ones.