Jun 10 2010
Three amazing articles are out that portend a lot of trouble for President Obama and the Democrat Party this year. It seems left, right and across the Atlantic Ocean people are concluding President Obama is just not up to the job. Let’s begin with the left, and this long, informative and damning piece in Rolling Stone regarding Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill:
Even after the president’s press conference, Rolling Stone has learned, the administration knew the spill could be far worse than its “best estimate” acknowledged. That same day, the president’s Flow Rate Technical Group â€“ a team of scientists charged with establishing the gusher’s output â€“ announced a new estimate of 12,000 to 25,000 barrels, based on calculations from video of the plume. In fact, according to interviews with team members and scientists familiar with its work, that figure represents the plume group’s minimum estimate. The upper range was not included in their report because scientists analyzing the flow were unable to reach a consensus on how bad it could be. “The upper bound from the plume group, if it had come out, is very high,” says Timothy Crone, a marine geophysicist at Columbia University who has consulted with the government’s team. “That’s why they had resistance internally. We’re talking 100,000 barrels a day.”
Most troubling of all, the government has allowed BP to continue deep-sea production at its Atlantis rig â€“ one of the world’s largest oil platforms. Capable of drawing 200,000 barrels a day from the seafloor, Atlantis is located only 150 miles off the coast of Louisiana, in waters nearly 2,000 feet deeper than BP drilled at Deepwater Horizon. According to congressional documents, the platform lacks required engineering certification for as much as 90 percent of its subsea components â€“ a flaw that internal BP documents reveal could lead to “catastrophic” errors. In a May 19th letter to Salazar, 26 congressmen called for the rig to be shut down immediately. “We are very concerned,” they wrote, “that the tragedy at Deepwater Horizon could foreshadow an accident at BP Atlantis.”
The administration’s response to the looming threat? According to an e-mail to a congressional aide from a staff member at MMS, the agency has had “zero contact” with Atlantis about its safety risks since the Deepwater rig went down.
And instead of putting the brakes on new offshore drilling, Salazar immediately throttled it up to record levels. Even though he had scrapped the Bush plan, Salazar put 53 million offshore acres up for lease in the Gulf in his first year alone â€“ an all-time high. The aggressive leasing came as no surprise, given Salazar’s track record. “This guy has a long, long history of promoting offshore oil drilling â€“ that’s his thing,” says KierÃ¡n Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “He’s got a highly specific soft spot for offshore oil drilling.” As a senator, Salazar not only steered passage of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which opened 8 million acres in the Gulf to drilling, he even criticized President Bush for not forcing oil companies to develop existing leases faster.
Let me stop here and relay a lesson NASA learned when they tried to do more missions under the banner of ‘faster, better, cheaper’. The idea was to develop many small focused missions with a few instruments instead of the behemoths like the Galileo mission to Jupiter with lots of instruments and immense power needs. The idea was you can spend $1 billion on one mission or on 4-5 missions. It also meant you would not lose everything in one mistake or accident.
At a glance this seems obvious, except there is one problem. When you create 5 times the missions you need five times the number of engineers, accountants, program managers, safety experts, etc, etc, etc. You need a larger pool of experienced hands to run all the mission developments and operations in parallel. What NASA learned was you only get two of the three goals no matter what. You can be faster and cheaper, but not better. You could be faster and better, but not cheaper. It was a hard lesson to learn.
What BP, the oil industry and the US government just discovered with the failure of this well and its back up systems is clearly the same lesson. If Salazar expanded the number of wells in the Gulf of Mexico then he opened the flood gates to some of the wells being understaffed and below quality and safety standards. You cannot just increase the pool of experienced, safe hands in a year. It takes decades to groom the pool of skilled labor required to take on these massively complex, edge of the envelope type challenges.
It seems clear the industry expanded exploration in this area too fast, and did not have the people (industry or government side) needed to expand safely.
Nowhere was the absurdity of the policy more evident than in the application that BP submitted for its Deepwater Horizon well only two months after Obama took office. BP claims that a spill is “unlikely” and states that it anticipates “no adverse impacts” to endangered wildlife or fisheries. Should a spill occur, it says, “no significant adverse impacts are expected” for the region’s beaches, wetlands and coastal nesting birds. The company, noting that such elements are “not required” as part of the application, contains no scenario for a potential blowout, and no site-specific plan to respond to a spill. Instead, it cites an Oil Spill Response Plan that it had prepared for the entire Gulf region. Among the sensitive species BP anticipates protecting in the semitropical Gulf? “Walruses” and other cold-water mammals, including sea otters and sea lions. The mistake appears to be the result of a sloppy cut-and-paste job from BP’s drilling plans for the Arctic. Even worse: Among the “primary equipment providers” for “rapid deployment of spill response resources,” BP inexplicably provides the Web address of a Japanese home-shopping network. Such glaring errors expose the 582-page response “plan” as nothing more than a paperwork exercise. “It was clear that nobody read it,” says Ruch, who represents government scientists.
[Update:] The company applied the same deadly cost-cutting mentality to its oil rig in the Gulf. BP, it is important to note, is less an oil company than a bank that finances oil exploration; unlike ExxonMobil, which owns most of the equipment it uses to drill, BP contracts out almost everything. That includes the Deepwater Horizon rig that it leased from a firm called Transocean. BP shaved $500,000 off its overhead by deploying a blowout preventer without a remote-control trigger â€“ a fail-safe measure required in many countries but not mandated by MMS, thanks to intense industry lobbying. It opted to use cheap, single-walled piping for the well, and installed only six of the 21 cement spacers recommended by its contractor, Halliburton â€“ decisions that significantly increased the risk of a severe explosion. It also skimped on critical testing that could have shown whether explosive gas was getting into the system as it was being cemented, and began removing mud that protected the well before it was sealed with cement plugs.
[Update:] Scientists were stunned that NOAA, an agency widely respected for its scientific integrity, appeared to have been co-opted by the White House spin machine. “NOAA has actively pushed back on every fact that has ever come out,” says one ocean scientist who works with the agency. “They’re denying until the facts are so overwhelming, they finally come out and issue an admittance.” Others are furious at the agency for criticizing the work of scientists studying the oil plumes rather than leading them. “Why they didn’t have vessels there right then and start to gather the scientific data on oil and what the impacts are to different organisms is inexcusable,” says a former government marine biologist. “They should have been right on top of that.” Only six weeks into the disaster did the agency finally deploy its own research vessel to investigate the plumes.[end update]
And these bureaucrats assigned to monitor the wells and prevent disasters like this are the same ilk now poised to take over your health care decisions for you. Government solutions are not all they are claimed to be. Read the whole article, it is disturbing and fascinating. H/T to Ed Morrissey, who rightfully notes the attempt to blame Bush for this fiasco falls way short, given all the key decisions and mistakes made on Obama’s watch.
Now to the right, and a devastating observation in the Wall Street Journal by Dorothy Rabinowitz:
The deepening notes of disenchantment with Barack Obama now issuing from commentators across the political spectrum were predictable. So, too, were the charges from some of the president’s earliest enthusiasts about his failure to reflect a powerful sense of urgency about the oil spill.
For it was clear from the first that this presidentâ€”single-minded, ever-visible, confident in his program for a reformed America saved from darkness by his arrivalâ€”was wanting in certain qualities citizens have until now taken for granted in their presidents. Namely, a tone and presence that said: This is the Americans’ leader, a man of them, for them, the nation’s voice and champion. Mr. Obama wasn’t lacking in concern about the oil spill. What he lacked was that voiceâ€”and for good reason.
A great part of America now understands that this president’s sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs. He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation, because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class. He is the alien in the White House, a matter having nothing to do with delusions about his birthplace cherished by the demented fringe.
President Obama is losing all connection to Americans. He never had the right of course. But since taking office and ramming through a failed stimulus bill which is bankrupting us under $2.5 trillion dollars of new debt in 2 years and ramming through a liberal health care destruction act, the President lost the center of the nation. This fact is clearly indicated in the elections of NJ and VA governors in 2009 and the MA Senate sear held by the late Ted Kennedy in 2010. They were landslides due to mass migration of independents from Democrats.
Now, with the Gulf oil mess he has lost the far left! And don’t think he has the international community either. This Gulf oil disaster is going to challenge one of our longest held international partners – the UK. And they are not very impressed with President “Kick Ass” at the moment either:
Neither the executive branch of the U.S. government nor BP PLC can be proud of the way they have handled the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Barack Obamaâ€™s escalating tough talk against BP, in particular, is a weak political manoeuvre that only magnifies his administrationâ€™s inaction on the big questions that have arisen from the oil spill.
Things are going badly â€“ oil is still gushing and washing ashore, birds are dying and an entire fishery and way of life is at risk â€“ so the public is looking for someone to blame. In a television interview, Mr. Obama said he wanted to know â€œwhose ass to kickâ€ â€“ better it be someone elseâ€™s than his own â€“ and directed his foot at BP CEO Tony Hayward, saying he â€œwouldnâ€™t be working for me.â€
Mr. Obamaâ€™s rhetoric is unbecoming and ineffective. His apparent anger is rising in direct proportion to demands that he must appear angry. That Mr. Obama has yet to even pick up the phone to speak to Mr. Hayward shows the extent to which the comments are damage control, albeit not of an environmental kind.
We have not witnessed incompetence at this level in living memory. The inexperienced junior senator from Illinois is demonstrating why you cannot elect someone who spent their entire life avoiding executive responsibilities to an executive position. The country – from left through center to right – is increasingly aware something is horribly wrong. It is so bad even the Â people of the UK can detect the problem from a continent away.
So what event can turn this growing tide of failure into a success? Nothing. There is absolutely nothing Obama and his young team of yahoos can do to change these results now. The best they can hope for is no other problems crop up for them to fail over. There is no success in their future this year. None.
Update: It seems BP and the US Government are now conspiring to hide the extent of the destruction:
A pilot wanted to take a photographer from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans to snap photographs of the oil slicks blackening the water. The response from a BP contractor who answered the phone late last month at the command center was swift and absolute: Permission denied.
To some critics of the response effort by BP and the government, instances of news media being kept at bay are just another example of a broader problem of officialsâ€™ filtering what images of the spill the public sees.
Scientists, too, have complained about the trickle of information that has emerged from BP and government sources. Three weeks passed, for instance, from the time the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20 and the first images of oil gushing from an underwater pipe were released by BP.
If this had been George W Bush the media would be screaming bloody murder. Hypocrites one and all.
Update: Can it be true the Obama administration TURNED DOWN resources to help clean up and contain the spill?
Three days after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch government offered to help.
It was willing to provide ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms, and it proposed a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands.
The response from the Obama administration and BP, which are coordinating the cleanup: â€œThe embassy got a nice letter from the administration that said, â€˜Thanks, but no thanks,’â€ said Geert Visser, consul general for the Netherlands in Houston.
Now, almost seven weeks later, as the oil spewing from the battered well spreads across the Gulf and soils pristine beaches and coastline, BP and our government have reconsidered.
Sadly yes it is true. Inexperience in all it glory.