Monday, July 5, 2010

Effect on Obama's Reputation

Is the oil spill a turning point or can it even „sink a presidency?“ as The Times writes on June 12?

The Times argues that a Obama has blamed BP relentlessly and made several trips to the Gulf of Mexiko partly because of the forthcoming midterm elections in November.

Was Obama´s Oval Office speech a success? He was specific calling for a fund to pay Gulf residents that would not be controlled by BP and talked about deploying the National Guard and putting the secretary of the Navy in charge of restoring the wetlands. He charged BP with recklessness and promised that the company would pay. He promised that he would not forget the Golf.

Obama might use the power of speech to make a push for climate change legislation. He talked a lot about it. But do his words add to what he said in Pittsburgh, when Obama was more forcefull calling for a legislative response? It was also in Pittsburgh he said he would fight to find votes to pass a bill that put a price on carbon.

Crisis presents opportunities for presidents to exert leaderschip as well as the risk of failure.

Is Obama himself concerned about what the spill response has done to him or is he more likely concerned about the challenge it poses for the future?

German Reactions

Obama is on slippery slope over the consequences of the Oil Spill. The critics discuss whether he shows leadership. The Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: “Obama wants to lead the US out of its dependence on oil. Absolutely right. In fact it’s the very thing people have been waiting to hear from Obama for weeks.” His reaction is called “cautions” and his suggestions are named as “vague”. “He doesn’t dare push the Senate to settle on a climate-change bill. This president won’t lead America out of a crisis this way—and he certainly won’t usher in a new era.”

Die Tages Zeitung stresses the role of Obama by arguing that through political decision-making the public debate on environmental issues is reinforced. “President Barack Obama made it clear … that BP won’t be exempt from criminal investigation. He’s also maintained a moratorium on new oil exploration on the deep-ocean floor, and looks determined to end corruption in federal agencies”. Die Welt writes: “This is the right way to make America independent of problematic nations. Going forward, the mix will also have to include exploitation of America’s domestic energy resources, even if it means heavier regulation to avoid a new disaster.” The Berliner Zeitung argues that Obama tried to make a virtue of an emergency. “Politically though, it’s fraught with risk. His opponents have already charged Obama with using the Gulf catastrophe to advance his climate agenda in Congress. Republicans rely on the tendency of Americans to prefer cheap fuel and big cars with a certain level of power. Over 30 years ago another president called for smarter American energy politics in a televised speech from the Oval Office. He wanted to know, ` Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem? ´ That president’s name was Jimmy Carter.” – So is Obama in danger of turning into an idealistic president without naming concrete goals? Or will he succeed by reinforcing the political debate and achieve a true shift in energy dependence?

Initial Response

It is easy to say that the BP oil spill will go down as one of the worst ecological disasters in the history of the United States. However, what exactly did BP do as an intial reaction and was it a good response? I have read many articles over the oil spill, and they all point to BP trying to contain the leak with a box. It was a four story box that was supposed to siphon up to about 85 percent of the leak. It also had never been tried at these depths, and unfortunately it failed. It collected ice crystals and therefore had to be cast aside. they have plans to send down another smaller containment box, but may people feel that this will also not work. Another option that they are looking into is cutting the pipe and placing a larger pipe over it that will funnel the oil directly to the surface where it can be disposed. This is a very dangerous option because there are a lot of things that could go wrong wiht it, and because of this, many people feel that it should be tried this early. With all of these options being weighed, it bets people to ask if BP did the best that they could. Are they seeking all alternatives or only ones that benefit them? Hopefully they aren't making decisions based on what is best financially for the company, but rather they are making their decisions based on what is the quickest and most ecological way to get this leak cleaned up.

Obama's Response

Obama is quoted as having said "the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America's natural resources." This quote followed his plan to expand offshore oil and gas exploration. This was only a few weeks before BP's oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, sank in the Gulf of Mexico. This took some of his supporters by surprise because he ran for office on a campaign that promoted a greener solution. However, it seems hard to say that drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is a greener solution, but Obama does have a valid point. There is a lot of oil that remains unutilized throughout the United States and off the coast. It would be highly beneficial for the US to utilize these resources in order to curb its dependence on foreign resources. Unfortunatley, now it doesn't look like that is going to happen anymore. Obama has enacted legislation that keeps oil companies from creating new wells offshore for a while, but is this really the best option? It would make more sense to pass legislation that requires oil companies to follow stricter guidelines when drilling for new wells instead of cutting it off completely. Some people are not happy with the way Obama is handling this situation, and I agree with their point of view. The situation really needs a leader, someone to step up and take responsibility for their actions. Instead of pushing legislation to take care of this issue, Obama is pushing legislation that in the end will benefit no one. obama really has not done anything but point fingers at BP. There can be similiarities drawn between the way Bush reacted to katrina and the way Obama reacted to this oil spill. Obama has the power to change things and he has yet to do anything.

Cleaning Process and the Future

Since there is progress being made on containing the oil spill, what exactly is going to be done to clean up what is already in the ocean? According to sources, thirteen countries offered assistance to clean up the spill, but the USA turned them down. Why would they do that? It would make more sense to accept all the help they could get. Also, the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, only allows skimmers, ships that are used to get the crude oil off of the surface of the water, that can filter the water up to the point where there is only 15 parts per million of oil. So, that means that ships who can get out 99.9% of the oil out of the water are not allowed to help because they still leave about 100 parts per million of oil. It is probably a good thing that the EPA requirements are there, but I feel that if it gets 99.9% of the oil out of the water then it should be allowed to be used. So, then what do they do with the extra oil that the ships can not contain? They actually burn it which took me by surprise when I saw it. Apparently once it is burned it makes it easier to collect because it turns into these glob like balls. Now that we know how they clean it up, what does BP and the USA hope to do to contain the well in the long run? BP has stated that it is drilling two relief wells into the original well that will enable them to hopefully block it. Once the relief well reaches the original well, they will pump fluid into the original well. The relief wells are expected to begin working in August. As of the end of June, they have put a cap on the well that is collecting about half of the oil spill according to authorities. I'm positive that stemming from this disaster, the US government will pass legislation that will make sure that this never happens again. Whether it be stricter regulations or halting offshore drilling altogether. Hopefully, the latter will not be enacted, but it is hard to tell at this point. The US needs oil, but it should be retrieved in the most ecologically friendly way. Maybe drillin at such extreme depths should be halted until more knowledge is shed on the subject.

What Did We Learn?

What should be done now to prevent this from ever happening again? Well, first there should be legislationg passed that requires more regulations for the oil companies. They should be responsible for making sure that their rigs are in the best condition they can be through multiple checks by an agency. That being said, I am sure that BP and all other oil companies have their rigs at the highest safety ratings possible. However, the spill just showed us that things can go wrong with even the best laid plans, and this is why I am encouraging stricter regulations and frequent checks. Secondly, there needs to be a lot more research put into ways to contain a leak. This disaster has proven that the oil companies don't know what to do at such extreme depths because the conventional ways don't work. So, there needs to be more resources dedicated to that area of oil containment. If you are going to drill at such deep depths, then it should be required to know what to do if something was to go wrong. Thirdly, the reaction time by companies and countries in the even of a disaster should be much quicker. I thought that the US would have learned a lesson about response time from Katrina, but I guess they did not. If both BP and the US would have reacted a little quicker, then who knows how it would have turned out. BP should have already had a containment device in the works when the rig went down, and the US should have received the help that was offered by the other countries. Maybe if these things are changed, we can avoid another disaster like this one.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gulf Coast Reactions to Obama's Speech

After the Oval Office speech made by Barack Obama, the reactions of the people affected along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico were bound to be recorded. Many residents feel that the situation has turned „comical“ because of the confusion, doubt, and lingering problems with the clean up and it leaves many Gulf Coast citizens feeling helpless. The inaction many feared would occur is not happening; rather, the problem is all of the chaos that is occuring, hindering progress towards cleaning the coast. They also have some doubts about Obama's comments of making „BP pay“ and whether or not that is really and truly possible. There are also problems with the amount. Several people have filed claims for damages and have only been payed small amounts. The amount of economic depression caused in the region is massive, as tourism, shipping industries, fishing and other seafood gathering, and of course the oil industry itself have all halted. Regina Shipp, a small restaurant owner has lost over $57,000 herself from just several weeks of being closed. Other tourist attractions, such as those in Florida, depend on having a clean Gulf in order to make parasailing, swimming, and other aquatic options avaliable for tourist purposes. In another twist, ABC interviewed 3 individuals after Obama's speech and found that all three were critical of the president. This is in stark contrast to what happened after hurricane Katrina when the same reporter asked 6 individuals on where to appropriate blame: not one blamed then President Bush but instead bashed the local and state government for not being prepared and for mishandling the situation. A new poll showed that 50 percent said that Bush handled Katrina better than Obama handled the oil spill, while only 35 percent chose Obama's handling of the spill over Bush. Is this a result of the time factor in which Gulf residents are hangry now? Or is it about the Gulf states being traditionally red states, or is Obama's honeymoon period run out?