Taking Advantage of an Oil Crisis

Days after being elected in November 2008, President-Elect Barack Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, spoke to a Wall Street Journal gathering of business leaders and stated that the economic crisis facing the United States is "an opportunity to do things you could not do before."

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," Emanuel said.

And why should we think this administration isn't letting the Gulf of Mexico oil crisis go to waste?

Don't be fooled for a moment. History proves that the Gulf leak is a messy dream come true for hardcore environmentalists -- -many of whom surround Mr. Obama.

Travel back in time to the 1969 oil spill of the coast of Santa Barbara. A Union Oil drilling platform six miles off the coast sprang a leak, allowing hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil to seep into the Pacific and wash ashore. The cameras of the world's media rushed to the scene to focus on oil-coated birds stuck in muck. The newly hatched ecology propagandists soaked it up.

The nation's first outspoken congressional environmentalist, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, immediately flew to California to see the crisis for himself. An anti-capitalism Democrat, Nelson returned to Washington angered at the oil industry, vowing, we're told, "to do something to wake America up."

Nelson's friend, Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich, worked vigorously with the senator to make the Santa Barbara spill a major national issue. Of course, Ehrlich's longtime friend and associate John Holdren is now Barack Obama's handpicked Science and Technology advisor.

Emotions still run high in ultra-liberal Santa Barbara over the 1969 leak. Even today, as black, marble-sized balls of coagulated crude are often found interspersed on the beaches of Santa Barbara, deceptive local activists will direct naïve eyes toward the oil platforms offshore, fervently declaring that capitalism and big oil are to blame for the tar balls on their sand. But this observation is total fraud. There is so much oil just beneath the ocean floor off Santa Barbara that the black gold is constantly seeping into the open waters at a rate of up to 170 barrels per day.

However, thanks to persistent environmentalists, that 1969 event has kept further oil and gas exploration and development off-limits on the west coast to this day.

Twenty years later, in 1989, the Exxon-Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Alaska, creating the largest oil spill in U.S. history. (By the way, at the current rate of flow, the Gulf leak will not surpass the amount of oil discharged in the Valdez accident for about a month and a half.) Keep in mind that the Valdez accident had nothing to do with an oil rig or platform -- it was caused by the extremely poor judgment of the ship's captain.

Nonetheless, the freak accident was successfully used by environmentalists to place massive swaths of Alaska off-limits to the oil and gas industry. It wasn't until 2007, when the Bush administration lifted a long-standing moratorium on drilling in Alaska's Bristol Bay, that oil companies were granted access to begin plans to harvest the 230 million barrels of oil and natural gas liquids -- plus the 6.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas -- in that remote corner of the Arctic. 

However, despite the fact that there have been no leaks, spills, or errors by the oil companies working Alaska since 1989, President Obama reversed the 2007 Bush decision, shutting the lid on the Bristol Bay oil fields. 

Now we have the 2010 Gulf spill. Judging by the past, I predict that this crisis will be effectively used by the Obama administration and environmentalists to prevent harvesting fossil resources from the Gulf for decades to come.

Additionally, one has to wonder why team Obama moved so slowly in responding to this situation. Certainly their gross inaction allowed the leak to grow into a full-blown disaster. Just look at the timeline of events (hat tip to deepseanews):

  • Tuesday, April 20. While finishing a well project for British Petroleum (BP), a Transocean rig called the Deepwater Horizon explodes and catches fire approximately 42 miles Southeast of Venice, Louisiana. U.S. Coast Guard District Eight command center receives report at approximately 10 p.m. Of the 126 people on board at the time of the explosion, 115 crewmembers were accounted for. Search begins for missing 11.
  • Thursday, April 22. The fire rages. A second explosion occurs, causing the rig to sink.
  • Friday, April 23. Search for missing crew members is suspended. The oil slick grows.
  • Saturday, April 24. Remotely operated vehicles discover that oil is escaping from two leaks in a drilling pipe about 5,000 feet below the surface. The leaks appear to be releasing 1,000 barrels a day.
  • Sunday, April 25. The oil slick now covers 600 square miles and is about 70 miles south of the Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana coastlines.
  • Tuesday, April 27. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal takes action and requests Coast Guard set up protected booms near several wildlife refuges. Meantime, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar say they are expanding the government's investigation of the explosion that caused the disaster.
  • Wednesday, April 28. The slick nears to 20 miles east of the mouth of the Mississippi River. BP states a controlled test to burn the leaking oil was successful late Wednesday afternoon.
  • Thursday, April 29. Governor Jindal declares a state of emergency, and the federal government sends in skimmers and booms to prevent environmental damage.
    President Obama says that BP is "ultimately responsible for funding ... cleanup operations." Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) immediately
    drafts legislation to suspend any plan for further offshore exploration and drilling until a full investigation of the disaster and the development of new protocols are developed.
  • Friday, April 30. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) follows Senator Nelson's lead and calls for immediate hearings with BP executives.
  • Sunday, May 2. Twelve days after the initial disaster began, President Obama flies to the Gulf coast and delivers a speech. Janet Napolitano blames delays on government response on fairy-tales: "Mother Nature has not exactly been friendly," she told ABC News.

Now we discover that if U.S. officials had followed up on a federal Gulf oil cleanup plan crafted in 1994, it is possible that the spill could have been kept under control and far from land. However, the feds did not have a single cleanup boom on hand. (The booms are made of flame-retardant fabric and have two pumps that push water through its 500-foot length; two boats tow the U-shaped boom through an oil slick, gathering up about 75,000 gallons of oil at a time, and that oil is dragged away from the larger spill and ignited.)

Instead, we've learned that eight days after the initial explosion, officials had to purchase a boom from a company in Illinois.

According the Mobile Press Register,

In the days after the rig sank, U.S Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said the government had all the assets it needed. She did not discuss why officials waited more than a week to conduct a test burn.

At the time, former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oil spill response coordinator Ron Gouguet -- who helped craft the 1994 plan -- told the Press-Register that officials had pre-approval for burning. "The whole reason the plan was created was so we could pull the trigger right away."

Gouguet speculated that burning could have captured 95 percent of the oil as it spilled from the well.

The foot-dragging Obama administration and inept federal agents have allowed an environmental disaster to fester. The only leader who seems to be taking a proactive stance is Governor Jindal.

Meantime, environmental activists of all stripes will seize this crisis as a greasy, golden opportunity and use it to shut off access to America's natural resources, I predict, for decades to come.

Brian Sussman is author of the new bestseller Climategate: a veteran meteorologist exposes the global warming scam. 
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