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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Obama and the spill, redux

I know I posted tons of stuff on this a couple weeks ago, but a friend of mine asked me about the idea going around that the spill is Obama's fault, so I thought I'd go ahead and post my response:

Permits for offshore drilling are given by an agency called the Minerals Management Service (MMS), an agency formed during the Reagan Admin that always had a reputation for being a rubber stamp for the oil industry. But they got really bad during the Bush administration, who staffed it with oil industry people. They were so tight with the industry they were literally having sex and snorting coke together. Needless to say there was no oversight in regards to risk taking, safety precautions, etc.

When Obama became President he appointed Ken Salazar Interior Secretary, which oversees the MMS. Salazar told the MMS "there's a new sheriff in town" and that things were going to change. But then, he didn't really follow up on that. (He also has a history with the oil industry, so some people question how serious he was) They did appoint a bonafide environmentalist to take charge of the MMS, but for whatever reason she was ineffectual (maybe she was afraid to just start firing people en masse, which is probably what should've happened.) She has since resigned.

Part of the problem is that the MMS not only is in charge of approving operations, but also then collecting the "rent," which means it's in their interest to approve things, because then they get more money for their department. Obama has since split up the operation into two separate units. That's good, although they should have spotted that problem a year ago.

I suppose Obama should take some portion of the blame, but it's for failing to clean up a problem that was created by Republicans. This disaster is consequence of the unholy alliance of corporate greed and the Republican ideology of deregulation. You don't get to criticize Obama unless you've spent most of your time talking about that. Otherwise, you've been watching too much Fox News.

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