Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where’s Billy Mays when you really need him?

  The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has proven to be a long running story. Every day, the news shows are full of failed attempts to plug the leak, politicians expressing hope and outrage, oil soaked animals, new attempts to fix the problem, oil soaked marshlands, breathless anticipation to see if the new solution works, congressional threats to action, tar on the beaches, impotent BP executives, and predictions of ecological doom as the oil works its way around Florida and up the east coast. It is a real mess worthy of a disaster movie.

  As soon as President Obama authorized more off shore drilling sites, an off shore drilling site explodes and sends an unheard of amount of oil gushing to the coast from a mile under the ocean. If I had a suspicious mind, I’d be thinking of an eco-terrorist group. Originally Obama took a hands-off policy towards BP’s cleanup efforts, but he got blamed for inaction when BP misreported the amount of oil leaking and was not able to stop the leak quickly enough. The interior secretary said ‘We will keep our boot on their neck until the job gets done” and threatened to remove BP from the efforts to seal the well. Obama claimed ownership of the problem a few days before the promising attempt to stop the gushing oil by covering thousands of pounds of heavy mud, but has been very quiet since that attempt failed.

  A recent poll said that 51 percent of Americans were unhappy with the presidents handling of the spill. I’m not unhappy with it. Short of swimming a mile down into the ocean with the world’s biggest cork, I think the President has set a good tone. He is right not to vilify BP until they pay for the damages and cleanup, since no one gets anything if they go bankrupt (we may even have to bail them out). I wish Obama would just admit that there isn’t a lot he can do about the situation and set up the assistance for cleanup and aid for the people who have lost their livelihood. For someone who was elected President based on his aura of competency, the president seems to be grasping at straws and wishful thinking instead of just admitting the truth that he has no power of the underwater oil gushing into the ocean and taking care of the things he does have the power to help with. This reminds me of the situation G.W Bush had after Katrina, where he couldn’t undo the hurricane. He also was turned on by the people and pilloried by his opponents for his response to an unfathomable disaster. Only Bill Clinton was empathetic enough to have more people think more favorably of him after a disaster like this than before.

  Unfortunately, the only 2 people that could have stopped this leak quickly were not available. Billy Mays could have plugged the leaking oil with Mighty Mend-It and cleaned up the spill with Oxi-Clean (probably the MAX FORCE or TRIPLE POWER products). And of course McGyver would have stopped the leak by fixing the giant malfunctioning blowout valve with a spare paper clip, some chewing gum wrappers, and his leftover pizza crusts.

  What has impressed me is the inventiveness and persistence of the BP engineers to try to stop the gushing oil a mile under the ocean. They have sprayed it with chemicals to keep it from rising to the surface, made a giant cement box and lowered it over the well with robots, stuck a mile long tube in the well to siphon off oil, shot the well with tons of mud, and now are using robots to cut the main well pipe to cover it with a cap. The results haven’t been good, but the effort is outstanding.

  Meanwhile, President Barack Obama said in Pittsburgh today that “The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future. That means continuing our unprecedented effort to make everything from our homes and businesses to our cars and trucks more energy efficient. It means tapping into our natural gas reserves, and moving ahead with our plan to expand our nation's fleet of nuclear power plants. And it means rolling back billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil companies so we can prioritize investments in clean energy research and development.” As bad as this oil spill is, I’m not really looking forward to a new batch of nuclear power plants. I hear those leaks are nasty.

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