People on the Gulf Coast and around the country are screaming for action now to stop the oil disaster caused by BP, but Obama is clearly stalling, trying to salvage his plan to open up more areas for offshore drilling, and avoiding any serious moves against BP. Even James Carville, a Democratic Party strategist (and also a Louisianian), has denounced Obama as being, at least, "naive" and lackadaisical" and having a "go along with BP" strategy. Today Obama's response has been to create another toothless commission to study the matter, one lacking even subpoena power.
What would serious government action look like? Here's my sketch of the basics.
- Arrest the CEO and board of directors of BP. I'm sure you lawyers can find the obvious violations of law, such as criminal negligence resulting in death (11 workers) and extreme jeopardy to peoples livelihoods,mass death of wildlife,destruction of vast areas of national shoreline, etc. If any of the top BP officials are out of the country (e.g., BP chief Tony Hayward, who flew back to the UK to celebrate his birthday during this disaster), then issue extradition orders.
- With the top level management cut out of the decison-making, insert an emergency decision-making body composed of independent, reknowned scientists and engineers who have been critical of BP all along (People like Robert Bea, engineering professor at UC Berkeley, and Richard Steiner, a marine conservation expert). This emergency committee will have absolute control of all BP assets.
- Seize all BP financial and physical assets in the service of this operation. If any of their lawyers object, invoke the emergency powers given to government in a "national security incident", which allows the government to do practically anything.
- Mobilize the entire private fishing and boating fleet in the Gulf region, hire everyone who wants to help immediately, use them for booming, cleaning up beaches and marshes, and whatever else is needed.
Mobilize all available scientific vessels to the Gulf, aided by the US Navy and Coast Guard, to analyze what's going on in the water and what can be done about it.
Immediate grants of money should go to wildlife conservation groups and biological/ecological scientists engaged in saving oiled birds, porpoises, turtles, etc. and studying the damage to the environment.
- Consider and if feasible, immediately implement all proposals coming from all serious people. For instance, two oil industry veterans say they used supertankers to clean up a large spill for Saudi Arabia in the early '90s, and they say that BP could use their very own supertankers to suck up the spilled oil. Of course, that means seizing BP's supertankers, no matter where they are, and bringing them to the Gulf of Mexico. The US Navy and Coast Guard could help in this.
This is only a beginning. Obviously a solution to plugging the leak must be found, and hopefully we won't have to wait until the relief well comes into play. But all of the above would help mitigate the disaster, and send a message to other oil companies.
I might add, nothing like the above will be done by the Obama administration, not to mention a Republican administration, because it would trample on the holiest of holies, corporate private property rights. But that's the point I'm making: there is no long-term solution without doing so.