Energy & Environment / Labor

Commentary: Oil Spill Cleanup Requires Obama to Cut Red Tape and Ignore Special Interests

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The federal government’s much-maligned response towards the Gulf oil crisis has been correctly attributed to red-tape and bureaucracy. But we should not overlook the recent evidence indicating that President Obama’s political posturing and constituent-pleasing are making matters worse. The concern is that President Obama has been complying with the wishes of two large factions of his constituency, the environmentalists and labor unions, in formulating his response, rather than listening to experts, empirical data, and common sense. As a result, invaluable and irreplaceable time and resources have been sacrificed.

Numerous media outlets have documented the Administration’s refusal to allow essential skimming ships and technology into the Gulf of Mexico to help remove oil from the water. Thirteen nations have volunteered their vessels, including a Taiwanese company which boasts the world’s largest skimming vessel. However, President Obama had declined those offers on the grounds that we are capable of cleaning up this mess ourselves. This is questionable.

Despite his claims of American self-reliance, President Obama’s refusal to waive the obsolete Jones Act may be inspired by his fealty to labor unions and environmentalists. The Jones Act is a protectionist measure which insulates American labor unions from foreign competition. Because of the high prices of labor costs here, we lack the technical capabilities and resources to handle the skimming operations on our own. Coupled with Obama’s refusal to waive this act, we are forced to fly in technology from the Netherlands, which has been an egregious waste of time and money.

Furthermore, the Administration, via the EPA, has issued the unacceptable excuse that skimming results in dumping water which still contains traces of oil residue back into the ocean. This is true, but water with oil residue is still infinitely preferable to the current toxic state of Gulf water. This is the latest in a spate of pseudo-scientific claims by the EPA, which includes shutting down Louisiana’s sand-berming operations on the notion that they will deprive blue herons of nesting areas.

As reported by Quin Hillyer of the American Spectator, the level of bureaucratic interference and incompetence is criminally negligent. Hillyer’s accusations have a large degree of credence to them. The Obama Administration is culpable for the inert governmental response. As has been widely noted, President Bush waived the Jones Act following Hurricane Katrina. Obama’s decision not to discard this Act, and his adherence to every prolonged bureaucratic procedure thus far, reflects his commitment to elements of his political base, rather than to the citizens of the Gulf Coast. Does President Obama want the Gulf coast to suffer? Of course not. Are politics adversely affecting his policy towards the Gulf? Absolutely. Political favoritism cannot take precedence over recovery amidst a crisis such as this.

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