25 May 2010

BP Oil Spill: White House Updated News - 24 May 2010



NASA photo taken of BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on 19 May 2010


From Denny: People all over the world are watching the American government's response to the oil spill emergency and environmental disaster. In the transcript that follows reporters asked a wide range of questions, the majority focused upon who exactly is in charge, who is responsible for fixing the oil leak and doing clean-up and who is to blame.

I placed the full transcript up here to give you an idea of just how much information gets homogenized by our media into simplistic sound bites, never telling the whole story. Frankly, too many reporters were focused upon the sensationalism of blame and not enough was focused upon where are we in our fight to battle this oil leak.

What it all basically boiled down to was that the government and BP never wanted to really tell the public the hard truth reality from the beginning. The oil industry has never had to deal with this kind of situation at a 5,000 feet depth. There are no contingency plans to deal with this great and unmanageable unknown from the oil industry or the government. Originally, the plans by the government were for a situation like the Exxon Valdez oil spill 20 years ago - dealing with tanker spills. No one took into account how to deal with a ruptured oil well on the bottom of the ocean floor.

Like in any disaster there are missteps and misinformation. What is most annoying to the public is how the information from the government, BP and the Coast Guard is disseminated to the media who then filter or edit it to promote their news story slant. Not enough of the right information gets out on a timely basis to the public.

Another serious misstep of the government is with local governments. The White House relied too much upon the Coast Guard co-coordinators instead of placing an aide with each state's governor to keep them apprised.

Another issue is that the bureaucracy of the federal government is more concerned with operating as they always have and not nimble enough to change gears rapidly when an emergency situation occurs like this oil spill. There is too much slavish devotion to "what we need to look at first that were our original contingency plans before we can field the emergency requests of local governors." Big mistake. This is what fuels voter outrage.

And EPA Head Browner didn't help the conversation with all her evasive answers and looking to the future of investigations, research and the like. People want to know where her agency is involved now and the status update on everything from dispersant and its environmental impact and more. We aren't interested in hearing about some future scientific convention.

What the Obama administration has gotten right is a more aggressive approach to the detailed hands on every day in this situation. Like anyone in an emergency situation they are busy ironing out the kinks of what functions and what doesn't. Unfortunately, this learning curve has taken a month to achieve.

Meanwhile, the public perception is that BP is not paying for the operation when, according to Press Secretary Gibbs, they are paying. I'd like to hear more specifics about this issue as Louisiana residents are especially sensitive about this issue since it affects our economy.

Why BP and the government have not appeared to look authoritative in this situation is because they got off to a slow start, allowing BP to run the operational decisions. Under fire politically, the White House has now taken the reins away from BP.

As to the current toxic dispersant, it can be noted that this same dispersant BP is using on our Gulf Coast was banned by Britain ten years ago. Read that as BP had a huge stockpile of the stuff and wanted to dump it somewhere and America became the "somewhere." They have a huge stockpile of lesser toxic dispersant just sitting on the Houston, Texas docks and no one knows why they are not using it on the oil spill. Guess that question has been answered: money.

What that says to me is BP has an attitude of depraved indifference toward the American people living on the Gulf Coast. Already there are many complaints of respiratory issues as the Air Force sprays some 600,000 gallons of dispersant. Tell us that does not affect air quality along with burning off the oil.

Where are the super tankers? Why have they not been employed out in the Gulf to collect and separate the oil, returning the water to the ocean? BP and the government should have mobilized these tankers immediately when the news came the leaks were gushing oil at massive amounts every day.

The current efforts in the Gulf are really just possible maybe-they-will-work-but-we-don't-expect-it-to-work scenarios. They are biding their time to satisfy the public and local residents they are trying other means to plug the leak while they await the relief well.

The oil industry and the government are betting all their chips on a relief well that will not be finished until August, probably September is more realistic. As it is even the oil folks are not completely certain a relief well will work. To Obama's credit he did order BP to drill TWO relief wells. He also ordered TWO blowout preventers, one as a backup in case the first one failed. Frankly, the oil industry should be doing backups as safety precautions in the first place.

What has Louisiana residents so angry is the slow response to gather up the oil as it gushes out until the leak can be stopped. Working on collecting the oil is necessary, as a two-pronged approach to clean up. The other is clean up of the marshes and beaches.

Meanwhile, the Army Corp of Engineers dithers while Rome is burning. They are more concerned about what the impact of taking sand from somewhere else and what that MIGHT do to that environment rather than take care of what is under their noses out in the Gulf. Depositing the sand in the Louisiana marshes is needed to soak up the oil from advancing farther into the wildlife habitats.

This environmental disaster involves so much coordination of efforts it's mind-boggling. What's getting in the way is the federal government's need to worry about what plans they had in place, examining why they are not working, instead of throwing that off to the side and dealing with creating new plans as they go along working on the emergency.

The federal government is far too slow because they want to get everything perfect before advancing the cure. The Gulf Coast can't wait on that kind of plodding mindset. The ocean is on fire folks. You don't stand around and talk about how you are going to handle the next fire when it's time to organize a fire brigade and pass the pails of water and throw them onto the fire. The fed heads think too much about the future needs rather than get practical and deal in the here and now.

That said, President Obama does now talk to the five state governors every day, giving them access to him and others in the food chain where they can get needed info in a timely manner. Again, as in Hurricane Katrina, the federal government and the military command structure prevented Governor Blanco from access to needed agency heads to solve immediate problems. She was prevented by agency heads to take people out of New Orleans by bus "because the buses were not air conditioned." Because of that hundreds of people died as the military took over the roads in and out of New Orleans and prevented her from acting.

Governor Jindal has run into the same lunacy like the Army Corp of Engineers worrying about environmental impact of removing sand while they know that sand is needed for Louisiana shores desperately. Only the President can break these federal log jams by Presidential orders and he must act quickly. We are already looking at another three months of gushing oil at the rate of over 210,000 gallons a day in the Gulf. When you look at the animated graphic of how the oil spill is growing from the first day you will get a strong visual of what the Gulf Coast is facing.

The enormity and impact of this oil spill is beyond imagining. Check out this graphic that follows the oil spill from its inception every day to the present on NOLA.com, a New Orleans site. Talk about make your heart sink when you witness how quickly it is growing and spreading.


Track the Gulf of Mexico oil spill movement in animated graphic

Transcript of White House Press Briefing





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