Dick Cheney and the Oil Spill
As we know from our own comment threads right here on this very blog, right-wingers are expert at taking a few facts from situations that appear to be superficially similar but really aren't upon reflection or closer examination and using them to attack liberals.
And so, in the last few days, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has become Obama's Katrina. Um...look, I'm as pro-pelican as the next guy, and obviously I don't mean to gainsay the scope of this environmental catastrophe, which will end up being staggering.
But Katrina killed about 1,500 humans. And no, it's not George Bush's personal fault that they died, either. But I still rate Katrina a far bigger tragedy for that reason.
And now it turns out, according to an environmental lawyer whose interview on Ed Schultz last week is getting a lot of circulation, that this leak may well be traceable in part to...Dick Cheney.
How? It's hardly as far-fetched as it sounds. From the Wall Street Journal:
The oil well spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico didn't have a remote-control shut-off switch used in two other major oil-producing nations as last-resort protection against underwater spills.
The lack of the device, called an acoustic switch, could amplify concerns over the environmental impact of offshore drilling after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig last week...
... regulators in two major oil-producing countries, Norway and Brazil, in effect require them. Norway has had acoustic triggers on almost every offshore rig since 1993.
The U.S. considered requiring a remote-controlled shut-off mechanism several years ago, but drilling companies questioned its cost and effectiveness, according to the agency overseeing offshore drilling. The agency, the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, says it decided the remote device wasn't needed because rigs had other back-up plans to cut off a well.
The U.K., where BP is headquartered, doesn't require the use of acoustic triggers.
The Journal's report doesn't come out and say this, but the environmental lawyer, Mike Papantonio, said on the Schultz show in an interview you can watch here that it was Cheney's energy task force - the secretive one that he wouldn't say much about publicly - that decided that the switches, which cost $500,000, were too much a burden on the industry.
In the interests of disclosure I will note that I haven't heard the phrase "acoustic switch" until this weekend, so I don't really know. And obviously the fact that the US isn't alone in not requiring this switch indicates that there are legitimate questions about cost v. efficacy. So maybe it's just one of those things.
But then again, maybe it's not. Regulatory decisions have consequences all the time, and the people who made them should be asked to justify their decisions in a democracy. It'll be very interesting to watch this week and see if other news outlets pursue this. --The Guardian