Digging For Relief
There have been a lot of "you've GOT to be kidding me" moments with this oil spill, but for me I think the biggest has been that Canada and Norway, which both have offshore drilling, required relief wells be dug and the US didn't. (And BP has been lobbying Canada hard to get rid of their regulations requiring it.) It was yet another shocking admission of the irresponsible magical thinking of our greedhead, scumbag elites over the past couple of decades. I guess the assumption was that because the US is so damned "exceptional" Mr Wizard would always step in if something happens and fix it. It's not ever a good plan.
Today Frank Lautenberg proposed that we change that and require all offshore rigs to have relief wells.
"My bill takes a common-sense step to contain damages that come with the inherently dangerous drilling business. If relief wells had been in place before the BP rig explosion, the gushing oil could have been stopped in weeks instead of months," Lautenberg said in a statement sent to the Huffington Post. "Clean energy that will reduce our dependence on oil is the long-term solution - but while offshore drilling continues in the Gulf and Alaska, this bill provides a proven way to contain oil spill drilling disasters. I will also continue to oppose any energy proposal in the Senate that does not protect New Jersey from oil drilling in the Atlantic."
Titled the "Emergency Relief Well Act," the philosophical concept behind the legislation actually has some interest among key administration officials. Adm. Thad Allen -- the point man for the administration's response to the spill -- offered support for the suggestion during a briefing last week, calling it a "legitimate point." Both he and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, however, said that it would be something for the Oil Commission to consider, as they craft their post-crisis recommendations.
Congress, of course, can supercede a presidential-appointed commission. And Lautenberg seems to be trying to set the guidelines for the legislative conversation well before the findings of that body are released. In a statement from his office, it is noted that "relief wells were also used successfully to stop two of the world's largest spills, the Ixtoc Spill in Mexico in 1979 and the Montara Spill in Australia in 2009. In both cases, the relief wells took several months to complete."
This seems like a no-brainer to me. But might I suggest that instead of providing this for new wells, they ban new offshore drilling and insist that relief wells be dug for all the wells that already exist? That would put the unemployed oil workers back to work temporarily, start ramping down the offshore business in the gulf and provide some security for the planet so that if this happens again we won't be bumbling around like blind salmon trying to fix something we don't know how to fix. (And if they won't go for that, how about dealing with the oil workers' job crisis by at least requiring the relief wells be dug for the existing wells immediately and extending the moratorium on new wells until this well is fixed and the oil is cleaned up?)
Sadly I'm guessing even Lautenberg's plan isn't going to get past the congress. They are going in the opposite direction. The Republicans are proposing to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling immediately and get back to drill, baby, drill while the oil is still slurping up on beaches. And if the past is prologue they'll probably win.
But who knows? Maybe this will be in the President's speech tonight, along with a bunch of new proposals and a determination to deal with energy and climate change once and for all. I live in hope and change. For the moment.