6.02.2010

From Top Kill to Overkill: Obama Overcompensates

Criticized for failing to show leadership in the face of the oil spill, the Obama administration has made every effort in recent days to be perceived as cracking down on BP and the menace.

But it looks like overcompensation for earlier failings at this point.  And the efforts don't really address the BP spill itself - the thing we truly wanted Obama to engage with.  It's almost entirely too late for that.  Instead, a bigger hammer than necessary is now brought down to offset the marshes that are already destroyed - moves that will have unintended side effects.

+ Drilling Moratorium - The moratorium on deepwater drilling, now slated to last 6 months, will further cripple Louisiana's economy, interferes with all sorts of contracts in the industry, and "smacked of a lack of understanding of the role that the oil business plays in the Louisiana economy." That's in addition to the shallow water drilling ban that penalized an entire class of activity in the region that's quite distinguishable from the deepwater drilling, which entails higher risks, involved in the actual incident.  Fortunately, that portion of the ban has been lifted.

+ Rolling Back Tax Breaks for Oil Companies - Even understanding the need to move toward renewable energies and the inherent risks of deep sea drilling, I think it's wrong to flail out and penalize all oil companies because of BP's failures.  This is Obama's shot at a populist appeal to his base regardless of whether such a measure actually makes sense.

+ Criminal Sanctions -While DOJ investigation of BP for violations of the law certainly seem in order, the timing seems interesting.  On the one hand...it took this long for DOJ to see that various environmental laws were violated or that some sort of criminal negligence might be in play?  On the other, BP, no matter how much it is reviled, is still crucially interwoven in any relief efforts.  Will it continue to devote itself wholly to the overriding goal of stanching the flow when it's facing criminal investigation by the federal government?