in Kulturkampf

Will Obama Waste The Gulf Oil Crisis?

It’s kind of  weird talking about a “Gulf oil crisis” without referring to the Middle East, isn’t it?

James Carville was stoking popular demand for action this weekend. Friday, ProPublica reported possible disbarment for British Petroleum:

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency are considering whether to bar BP from receiving government contracts, a move that would ultimately cost the company billions in revenue and could end its drilling in federally controlled oil fields.

We’re talking $16 billion in revenue here — enough to send BP stock plummeting to penny status. It’s a sword of Damocles with a lawyer-like name. Apparently, the EPA has actually considered this move against the company for years now. The rumor drew an interesting comment from Lamar Alexander:

General Honore makes two Republicans who’ve said they support nationalizing BP or its assets — without saying the word “nationalize,” of course. Such a move would certainly invigorate the Democratic base at an important time, even erasing the memory of drilling concessions.

Meanwhile, the damage to the Gulf will be awful but the damage may not be so permanent:

As the studies extended into a second year, scientists noticed how fast the marine environment recovered, helped by naturally occurring microbes that feasted on the oil and degraded it.

Perhaps due to those microbes, aquatic life along the shoreline in Texas had returned to normal within three years — even as tar balls and tar mats remained along the beaches, sometimes covered by sand, according to Wes Tunnell, a marine biologist at Harte Research Institute of Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi.

“We were really surprised,” Lizarraga said. “After two years, the conditions were really almost normal.”

By no means am I denying the awfulness of the spill. In fact, I’m just as angry about this as anyone, and just as much in favor of ending the practice of offshore drilling altogether; but what we need more than anything is a competition that favors cleaner energy, and to get there we need a climate bill.

We cannot wean ourselves from oil all at once, but we can do it over time — and lead the way for a whole planet to wean itself from oil, too. But that will take time, so the timing of this crisis and the climate bill cannot be better. Obama must define this legislation to the public before the silly season of August; the tea party apparatus will try to control the narrative with fake controversies, so Obama must leverage genuine controversies in June and July.

Will BP become a sacrificial lamb? Word last night:

VENICE, La/HOUSTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government threatened on Sunday to remove BP from efforts to seal a blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico if it doesn’t do enough to stop the leak, though it acknowledged only the company and the oil industry have the know-how to halt the deepwater spill.

Get that? It’s the conundrum at the heart of the crisis. Sure, the Navy has deep-sea submersibles — how many roughnecks are among the pilot-corps? Are they equipped with the right tools? My guesses are not any and no. BP has consistently lied, fudged, and failed in its efforts. Indeed, all three companies involved have managed to screw up at every turn. But the fact remains: they have the knowledge and resources the government lacks.

So the real question is not whether Obama will waste the crisis, but whether the left can stomach BP surviving in exchange for a strong climate bill.

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