In his speech today, President Obama hit the oil industry, took blame for the failure of the federal government such as the MMS, and yet he restated his support for offshore drilling:
Now, as I've said before, domestic oil drilling continues to be one part of an overall energy strategy that now includes more clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency than at any other time in our history. But it's absolutely essential that going forward we put in place every necessary safeguard and protection so that a tragedy like this oil spill does not happen again. This is a responsibility that all of us share — the oil companies share it; the manufacturers of this equipment share it; the agencies in the federal government in charge of oversight share that responsibility. I will not tolerate more finger pointing or irresponsibility.
It's good that he calls for additional safeguards and protections to be put in place, but given the enormous scale of the disaster we are seeing in the Gulf of Mexico, there should be a permanent moratorium put on offshore drilling as we do not have the present technology to deal with a disaster of this scale.
There was an investigative report undertaken by The Center For Public Integrity in which they showed that training exercises showed gaps in government preparedness before the oil spill. This is a must-read report for anyone interested in the debate over offshore drilling, and its supposed necessity in meeting our future energy needs.
The lack of available technology, however, was forewarned in multiagency reports following the training exercises — reports that cautioned the oil industry would not spend the money to develop new containment solutions unless mandated by the government. The recommendation went unheeded, according to officials and experts.
"The technology that’s being used on the surface is over 30 years old," said Jerome Milgram, a professor of marine technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "I can say this. I don’t see any practical effect for putting out booms when the sea conditions are such that the booms are totally ineffective."
Yet, BP’s "worst case" scenario for a huge oil spill in the Gulf relies heavily on being able to boom and skim a half million barrels a day, according to the oil spill response plan the company filed with federal regulators.
That is "either fraud, fantasy or forgery," said Carl Pope, chairman of the Sierra Club, the environmental lobby. "These are not serious plans, and yet the government accepts them as a basis for drilling."
President Obama also rightly pointed out that federal regulators had been too lax with regards to oversight of the oil industry in his speech today:
That includes, by the way, the federal government. For too long, for a decade or more, there has been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill. It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies. That cannot and will not happen anymore. To borrow an old phrase, we will trust, but we will verify.
And so I've asked Secretary Salazar to conduct a top-to-bottom reform of the Minerals Management Service. This week, he announced that the part of the agency which permits oil and gas drilling and collects royalties will be separated from the part of the agency in charge of inspecting the safety of oil rigs and platforms and enforcing the law. That way, there's no conflict of interest, real or perceived.
We've also ordered immediate inspections of all deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico. And we've announced that no permits for drilling new wells will go forward until the 30-day safety and environmental review that I requested is completed. We're also closing the loophole that has allowed some oil companies to bypass some critical environmental reviews, and today we're announcing a new examination of the environmental procedures for oil and gas exploration and development.
I commend President Obama for taking proactive action with the MMS, and in acknowledging the failure of the federal government with regards to oversight of offshore drilling. However, as the CPI report shows, we do not have the present technology to deal with the aftereffects of a disastrous oil spill such as Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.
We need to put in place a permanent moratorium on offshore drilling as we have not developed the necessary technology or the ability to deal with a massive leak in waters that deep at 5,000 feet below sea level. The President should support such a permanent moratorium on offshore drilling or at least require that new technologies are developed to deal with the potential of an offshore spill. No offshore drilling should go ahead, or be permitted until such technologies are developed. It would be far better to have a permanent moratorium on offshore drilling.
The President himself acknowledges that we are using the most advanced technology in dealing with the oil spill, but experts also acknowledge that the technology we are using are NOT sufficient enough in dealing with an oil spill like this:
And what really matters is this: There's oil leaking and we need to stop it — and we need to stop it as soon as possible. With that source being 5,000 feet under the ocean's surface, this has been extremely difficult. But scientists and engineers are currently using the best, most advanced technology that exists to try to stop the flow of oil as quickly as possible.
With that in mind, the Center For American Progress has an excellent list of reasons against expanding offshore drilling. It's well worth the read.
Also, Tom Philpott at Grist has a great article about the continued lies by BP, and the puzzling willingness of the federal government in allowing the lies by BP to stand:
The magnitude of those numbers is stunning. If the NPR analysis correct, we're getting at least a Valdez-level spill every five days. Equally stunning, though, is that the government's Deepwater Horizons Response team has allowed the 5,000-barrel number to stand. Here's NPR:
BP has said repeatedly that there is no reliable way to measure the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by looking at the oil gushing out of the pipe. (Watch this video of the crater's plume.) But scientists say there are actually many proven techniques for doing just that.
In other words, BP is lying when it says there are no accurate ways of measuring the spill -- and the federal response team has played along.
And President Obama in his speech said that there is uncertainty about the actual numbers about the extent of the oil spill. At best, this is a mistaken statement since many scientists have pointed out that there are ways to measure the oil spill accurately. There is no need in allowing this "uncertainty" to stand. The public and the scientific community should be given full access to the video feed being held by BP. We have every right to know the truth about the full magnitude of this disaster, profits of BP be damned.
I have given the President kudos on this issue where appropriate, and where he has fallen short---namely on his continued support for offshore drilling, I do not applaud him on that. He needs to be held accountable on his support for offshore drilling.
It is a mistaken position to take, and one that is grossly out of sorts with the reality in the Gulf of Mexico where thousands of species are now threatened or at the point of extinction, a fishing industry wiped out, and a tourism industry in ruins this summer.