I read President Obama’s Oval Office speech at an airport gate rather than seeing it on television, so I might have misjudged its impact. But it struck me as uninspiring at best. Obama has been behind the curve ever since the Deepwater Horizon exploded, and over the last week or two he has transparently tried to stop the political bleeding with a series of symbolic acts. The problem is that these gestures won’t do anything to contain the oil that is already swirling around the Gulf–currently spewing out at an upwardly-revised estimate of up to 60,000 barrels per day–and the environmental disaster will continue to unfold over the coming weeks and months regardless of what the federal government now does.
So nothing Obama says is likely to change the negative impression the public has already formed, rightly or not, of the administration’s response to the spill. Residents of Louisiana, by a 50-35 margin, rate the Obama administration’s response worse than the Bush administration’s performance on Hurricane Katrina.
It’s hard to see how an Oval Office Speech could help much, even if it had not been pedestrian. In fact, the speech offered nothing new, and featured the same BP-bashing and pledges to unleash squadrons of lawyers to collect damages that already grate on most Americans. Obama doesn’t seem to understand how hollow, and sometimes petulant, his vows to make BP pay sound.
But what struck me the most about tonight’s speech is how dishonest Obama was. There is nothing new about this, but tonight’s performance seemed to pack a lot of whoppers into a relatively small space. Here are a few:
I’ve talked to shrimpers and fishermen who don’t know how they’re going to support their families this year. I’ve seen empty docks and restaurants with fewer customers – even in areas where the beaches are not yet affected. I’ve talked to owners of shops and hotels who wonder when the tourists will start to come back. The sadness and anger they feel is not just about the money they’ve lost. It’s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.
I refuse to let that happen. Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness.
Two problems here. First, collecting money from BP won’t restore the way of life that many on the Gulf fear is slipping away. Second, while human error no doubt played a role in the disaster, there is no evidence that BP was “reckless.” As I noted yesterday, BP’s market capitalization has declined by around 50 percent–$100 billion–as a result of the spill. By any rational measure, BP has been harmed more by the spill than anyone else, even Barack Obama. It serves no purpose to launch unsupported accusations of recklessness. One might say, on the contrary, that it is reckless to do so.
We consume more than 20% of the world’s oil, but have less than 2% of the world’s oil reserves. And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean – because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.
This howler is a favorite canard of Democratic politicians. As is so often the case, they are relying on the public’s ignorance. Most people don’t realize that in the U.S., oil isn’t counted as part of our “reserves” unless it is legally available for drilling. Thus, ANWR, to take one of many examples, isn’t counted toward the total “reserves.” The U.S. government could cause our reserves to skyrocket overnight by opening new areas, on land and in shallow water, to drilling. But the U.S. is the only country in the world that has deliberately chosen not to develop its own energy resources. No one else is that dumb.
The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but over the last year and a half, we have already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry.
“Jumpstart” means subsidize.
Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.
How does the House bill make clean energy profitable? By imposing a gigantic tax on carbon. The idea is to make fossil fuels artificially expensive, so that less efficient energy sources become competitive. This is another way of saying that the plan is to make the American people poorer.
So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party – as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.
The “addiction” meme is moronic. We are not addicted to oil, we make a rational decision to use it because it is the most efficient and versatile energy source on this planet. If the federal government artificially inflates the price of fossil fuels through taxation and thereby forces Americans to use less desirable sources of energy, while at the same time other countries continue to use more efficient fossil fuels, it will raise the relative price of all American products and devastate our economy. Is it possible that Barack Obama does not know this? I’m not sure; his grasp of even the most basic economic principles seems shaky at best.
So Obama’s performance was not just ineffective, it was meretricious.