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Gulf oil spill: Goodbye ‘Redneck Rivieras’

Robert Reich, professor of public policy | June 3, 2010

Just before his daily briefing Wednesday, Admiral Thad Allen, the President’s military point man in the Gulf, had the BP logo removed from the podium. The White House apparently wants to distance itself from Bad Petroleum.

But confusion over who’s in charge – BP or the White House – continues to reign. Questioned about whether BP can successfully shear off the well pipe in order to fit a cap over it, Allen answered “I don’t think the issue is whether or not we can make the second cut. It’s about how fine we can make it, how smooth we can make it.”

As Tonto asked the Lone Ranger, “who’s we kemosabe?”

“We” – that is, the American people and its representatives – are not in control of this. BP is in control. Yet BP has a long record of negligence, and it was BP’s negligence that probably caused this disaster. So why is it in control?

If BP’s attempt to cap the well fails again, BP says America will have to wait until August to stop the surge of oil into the Gulf, when BP says it will complete a relief well.

August is way too late. Since the explosion on April 20, the gusher has leaked anywhere from 21 million to 45 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. At that rate, the Gulf will be filled with more than twice that amount by August.

How do we know BP is using every possible resource to stop this? How do we know it’s providing accurate information? How do we know it’s properly weighing risks and benefits to America?

Politics is about to take over from policy in any event. Forecasters say the oil will probably start washing up on Florida’s coast this Friday – not only threatening its fragile system of bays and islands, but also rendering miles of white-sand beaches unusable. The tourist destination that’s been called the “Redneck Riviera” will be coated with thick black ooze.

If you think there’s been a political firestorm so far, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Florida’s beaches are crucial to its economy. In 2008, at least 60 percent of vacation spending in Florida occurred in beachfront cities. Florida’s economy is central to its politics. And Florida’s politics is – well, think back on the last several presidential elections.

The President is proposing to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for the oil companies. He’s appointed a commission to find out why BP’s well blew.

But unless or until he takes charge – putting BP’s U.S. subsidiary under temporary receivership, forcing BP to use all its available resources and submit itself to full federal oversight and control – his own presidency is in danger of being tarred by the same thick gunk that’s about to wash up on the Redneck Riviera.

This post was also  published in Robert Reich’s Blog.

Comments to “Gulf oil spill: Goodbye ‘Redneck Rivieras’

  1. with the Gulf Oil spill and out of control global warming being some of the consequences that now threaten the survival of humanity.I agree with you. I hope you are well amigo

  2. Ramon, I agree with you. I hope you are well amigo 🙂

    NO ONE at Berkeley has talked about the fact that BP has huge investments in research going on at Berkeley. This was a hot issue on our campus so recently yet there has been no discussion of BP’s place at Berkeley especially in light of the Oil Spill.

    This conversation is important.

    • Benny, the number one historical fact in this case is that in 1961 President Eisenhower warned: “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.”

      UC scientists and administrators chose to marginalize Ike’s warnings in favor of “the power of money” as their paramount cultural value, with the Gulf Oil spill and out of control global warming being some of the consequences that now threaten the survival of humanity.

      Thus another fact of life is that No One Really Cares (NORC) or they would have done something about these threats against humanity decades ago after the Charles Keeling’s curve began proving beyond all doubt that the acceleration of CO2 in the atmosphere was an out of control Inconvenient Truth, but they even marginalized Keeling just like Ike.

      So BP-UC is just another example of the perpetuation of a culture that failed to meet the challenges of change in favor of “the power of money.” History books are full of documentation of failed civilizations for this very same reason, but the culture of NORC prevails.

  3. The South will never be the same, it is going to be more educated about the importance of its environment. It is very important to understand the significance of this oil disaster will have on politics and policy. This oil disaster is a historical event that will shift the political map to the left in the conservative South at least in terms of environmental issues and government.

    • It’s hard to believe that in a country with updated technology and with rich resources, an oil spill can’t be taken care off.

  4. Steve, I think the connection is that BP has an incentive to make money for BP, even if that means prolonging the fix to save the well-rig or dumping harmful dispersants in the Gulf. It’s a conflict of interest, and ideally our government would provide at least some oversight for the greater good.

    Also — I too am from Florida and a native of the so-called “Redneck Rivieras.” While I don’t find that term offensive, I don’t think it enhances the story. Poor choice of wording, but I’m really glad Reich is calling attention to this crisis.

  5. What’s the purpose of the term “redneck rivieras.” I find it degrading and offensive. Not very diverse or tolerant of you.

    • I’m from Florida and depending on the region about half of the people I know use that term. Stop complaining.

  6. I don’t get it. If Obama submits BP to full federal oversight and control, how will that lead to the well being closed off before August? Does the federal government know the secret to shearing off well pipes? Does BP know the secret to shearing off well pipes but is being lazy, and if only they are forced to “try harder” their next attempt will be successful? Or what? What’s the connection?

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