Planning for Disaster by Ralph Nader

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by Ralph Nader
The Nader Page
June 4, 2010

When the Executive Branch does not have worst case scenario planning for each kind of energy source—oil, gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar and efficiency—the people are not protected.

Enter the 24/7 oil gusher-leak by BP and Transocean – the rig operator – and the impotence of the federal government to do anything but wait and see if BP can find ways to close off the biggest and growing oil leak in American history. Where is the emergency planning or industry knowhow?

Of course, we all saw Barack Obama’s first full press conference in ten months where he said, “In case you were wondering who’s responsible? I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure everything is done to shut this down…The federal government is fully engaged, and I’m fully engaged. Personally, I’m briefed every day. And I probably had more meetings on this issue than just about any issue since we did our Afghan review.”

Sure, so he’s being kept informed. Those are not the words of leadership five weeks after the preventable blowout on the Deepwater Horizon 40 miles off the Louisiana coast. His problem is how long it took for the White House to see this as a national disaster not just a corporate disaster for BP to contain.

That default was not just failing to determine the size of the spill (over ten times greater than BP originally estimated) or the farcical non-regulation, under Republicans and Democrats, by the Minerals Management Service of the Interior Department. It was a failure to realize that our government has no capability, no technology to take control of such disasters or even to find out whether solutions exist elsewhere in the oil and geologic industries. It’s like a spreading fire where the perpetrator of the fire has the primary responsibility to put the fire out because there Is no properly equipped public fire department.

James Carville, an Obama loyalist and defender, called out his champion from New Orleans, where he now lives, and told him: “Man, you got to get down here and take control of this!” With what? Obama has a 16 month long record of turning his back on advice from the Cajuns of Louisiana to environmental groups in Washington, DC. He shook off warnings about the pathetic federal regulators, so called, cushy with the oil industry. During his campaigns, he allowed McCain’s “drill, baby, drill” to turn him more overtly toward favoring offshore drilling, instead of turning onto offshore windpower.

As the multi-directional and multi-depth oil swarm keeps encircling the Gulf of Mexico, strangling the livelihood of its people, the life of its flora and fauna, with its implacably deadly effect, Obama and his supposedly street smart advisors, led by Rahm Emanuel, started out with a political blunder. Presidential specialist, Professor Paul Light at New York University put his finger on it when he said: “The White House made a deliberate political calculation to stand off…to sort of distance themselves from BP, and they’ve been hammered on that.”

Early on, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told him that the federal government does not possess superior technology to BP. And BP CEO Tony Hayward admitted that BP was not prepared for such a blowout. He said “What is undoubtedly true is that we did not have the tools you would want in your tool kit.” Gates really meant that Uncle Sam had nothing superior to nothing or, in less charitable words, was completely out to lunch with the chronic deregulators who still infect our national government.

Obama’s cool is turning cold. He is not reacting fast enough to the public rage that is building up and over-riding his vacuous statements about taking responsibility and being briefed daily. Much of this public rage, incidentally, is coming from the southern Gulf rim, whose elected politicians consistently opposed any regulation of their campaign contributing oil companies in order to avert just these kinds of disasters. Only Florida’s Congressional delegation said—stay out of Florida’s waters.

Politico reported that “Obama skipped the memorial service for the 11 workers killed on the rig earlier this week, instead flying to California, where he collected $1.7 million for Democrats and toured a solar panel plant. On the day that the significant clots of oil started appearing on the Louisiana coast, Obama was sitting down for an interview to talk hoops with TNT’s Marv Albert.”

He must move to properly sequester all the assets of BP and Transocean to fully pay for their damage, thus assuring Americans that BP will not be able to concoct another Exxon/Valdez escape strategy. He must scour the world of knowledge and experience regarding capping underseas oil blowouts, and not just wait week after week for BP to come up with something.

Nobody says that being president is an easy job, even in the best of times. But a President, who can go all out spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan in ways that bleed the taxpayers and breed more anti-American fighters, in part to protect Big Oil in the Middle East, better come back home and stop Big Oil’s war here in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s how he’d better start defining “homeland security.” (See for more on BP.)


Another setback in BP’s attempt to halt leak

Sylvia Earle: It’s a Subsea Problem by Ariel Ky + Aerial, underwater video of oil spill seal effort

Oily Politics Led to Environmental Disaster by Walter Brasch

BP announces ‘top kill’ has failed to stop Gulf oil leak + Mike Papantonio: Centrist Syndrome & Corporate Death Penalty

Naomi Klein: Why is BP still in charge?


I Would Love To Spend A Lot Of My Time Yelling At People! President Obama

President Obama Tours Fourchon Beach, LA

President Obama Assesses BP Oil Spill Response

Obama: I Take Responsibility For Solving This Crisis! pt.1

Obama: I Take Responsibility For Solving This Crisis! pt.2

6 thoughts on “Planning for Disaster by Ralph Nader

  1. Ralph Nader,
    In my opinion, your assessment of Obama’s failure of leadership is fair and accurate, but how do you expect a lackey such as he is to stand up to his masters?

    What needs to be done, immediately, is an independent group of concerned Americans to carry out an assessment of how much oil has gushed and continues to gush. We’ve got to stop using the word “spill”. It just doesn’t convey what is happening.

    Americans need to file a class action suit against BP in the International Criminal Court in the Hague. We cannot rely on our government to protect our interests as taxpayers or residents on the Gulf of Mexico or business people or vacationers… not when corporate interests are so protected.

    I suggest creating an international consortium to address this issue: the consortium could be formed by taking all the people who have wanted to assist in resolving this problem: scientists, engineers, inventors, and deep sea exploration experts such as James Cameron and Sylvia Earle. and even Iran’s national oil company, all of who have been turned down by BP in their offers to help. This isn’t just a BP problem or a U.S. problem, but one that affects everyone on the planet. And the guilty party needs to be taken in hand and not allowed to make critical decisions about timing and resources. The scope of this man-made catastrophe is unprecedented. The perpetrators should not be allowed to obscure their crime, leaving us at their mercy even further as they attempt to protect themselves and attempt damage control in a PR exercise rather than a truly determined effort to resolve the problem they’ve created. We need to pull out all the stops and come together with all of the resources and expertise of the entire planet to work it out how to stop the oil from gushing with the force of a volcano deep in the sea.

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  5. Obama is not “an emotional personality,” which is not to say he is unfeeling! And I think it is fair to say he takes his “job” very, very seriously and does not pretend he has “quick fix” solutions to issues that have been brewing to this point in history for a long, long, long. long time!

    To the short-sighted minded, cause and effect are visible on a very short continuum. The truth is those natural resources we have so long exploited for our own comfort appear to be “fighting for their own lives.” I am personifying natural resources to make the point that we humans are being reintroduced to “true power,” which lies in what we DON’T understand…or accept, maybe–which is that we cannot proceed as usual.

    Human domination over nature–the workings of earth as a living organ–has met impasse.

    In the words of Robert Frost, we are facing “the road not taken.”

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