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June 10, 2010

Oil Oil Over

Patricia A. Kelly

I didn’t want to hear about it and still don’t. I keep my eyes averted slightly as I watch television, afraid I’ll see another oil-soaked pelican.


The scope of this catastrophe is mind boggling. Eleven people are dead. Incredible beauty is lost. Innocent animals are suffering and dying. Coastal wetlands, life sustaining for much of the southern United States, not to mention the rest of the country, are potentially damaged beyond belief. It’s hard to even think about it, let alone look.


BP drilled a deep well, and it exploded. Exactly why, no one knows. They appear to me to have taken responsibility and have been working very hard to fix it.


President Barack Obama has decided, somewhat belatedly, that it is his job to take care of it, so he flies down to Louisiana occasionally to eat shrimp, put on his high tops and fondle a tar ball.


The whole thing seems to have been caused by President Bush, or, better yet, President Ronald Reagan, conveniently dead, who made some sort of a pact with the oil company devils. Maybe it was President Dwight D. Eisenhower, also conveniently dead, who had a lot to do with the start of the interstate highway system and, thus, the perpetuation of our need for oil for cars.


Eric Holder, our paragon of an attorney general, is running around somewhere threatening to put BP in jail for some crime as yet undetermined. Go home, Eric. Re-check your tax return.


This weird tap dance is a crock, in my view.


As far as I can tell, oil companies drill for oil to sell to make money. Making money is their job. They are capitalist companies. Such companies provide a lot for society in addition to their products. They provide jobs and tax revenue as well.


In the course of making money, they should be required to behave honorably, not exploit or victimize people, animals or the environment, and should take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.


We all remember recent frauds such as Enron, leaving employees and shareholders financially broken. We remember the recent West Virginia coal mine disaster, and the owner who repeatedly violated safety standards. We remember small children dying from E. Coli contamination of meat in improperly run packing plants.


These violations are against the law. Creating and enforcing an appropriate regulatory climate in which private industry can operate is the proper role of government.


Our government’s job is to provide security for its citizens so we can be free to pursue life, liberty and happiness. It is not to make money.


Our representatives and corporate executives get into each others’ pockets, so to speak, thanks to campaign contributions and, on the part of our representatives, a growing sense of entitlement as one of the haves, the ones who get to decide everything for and take things from the little people, us.


With the Food and Drug Administration, for example, retiring employees get big jobs in the pharmaceutical industry. FDA rulings are exclusively related to new developments in the pharmaceutical industry. The agency virtually never approves secondary uses for existing drugs, because no one makes much money from this. There have been numerous instances in recent years of approved new drugs causing excessive side effects and even deaths, and being withdrawn.


As for the oil industry, our regulatory agencies allowed deep water drilling without requiring adequate safeguards, such as the simultaneous drilling of a relief well, as is done in other countries.


Although oil companies should be responsible for safety, such regulations and concerns are definitely the proper role of government regulatory agencies.


Now, in the face of catastrophe, instead of running around looking for someone to blame, our government should bring in the help needed to work with BP and to tap into technology available throughout the world to solve this problem.


The bills can be paid, and blame assigned later. There is no obvious reason at this time to castigate BP. There is no obvious gain to having our president ride up on his white horse claiming it’s his job to fix everything.


It is time, however, to look at our own regulation and oversight process.


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