Now not time for oil spill blame; just fix problem

Published 5:00 pm Sunday, May 16, 2010

Multiple editorial cartoons this week have depicted oil-coveredBP, Transocean and Halliburton executive pointing fingers at eachother in trying to place blame for the spill that is wrecking havocin the Gulf of Mexico. President Barack Obama on Friday offered averbal observation of the Senate panel hearing events, calling thema “ridiculus spectacle.”

Now, however, is not the time for assessing blame and assigningguilt. Even Obama’s comments, while perhaps true, serve littlepurpose.

What is frightening and frustrating for fishermen whose livesdepend on clean water, coast community officials who rely ontourism dollars and residents who have chosen to live on the coastis that it is going on a month since the April 20 explosion aboardthe Deepwater Horizon that lead to the oil spill and a containmentsolution has yet to be found.

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Environmentalists are predicting catastrophic results from thespill that has spewed around 4 million gallons of crude into theGulf while pro-business factions have downplayed environmentalconcerns while highlighting dispersant and other leak-combatingefforts. Reality likely lies in between those two extremes.

The bottom line is that the leak needs to be contained andcontained now. Why it has not is confounding to many.

While obviously every contingency cannot be accounted for andunderwater working conditions are extreme, it seems reasonable thatcontainment should not have taken this long. At this point, whogets the blame for the problem and who gets credit for a solutionis irrelevant – just get it done.

While the president may be on track with his ‘ridiculus spectacle”discussion, he ventured into troublesome waters Friday withcomments about more stringent environmental reviews of drillingpermits and operations. Obama walked a fine line between addressingenvironmental concerns and maintaining oil exploration as acomponent of an overall U.S. energy strategy.

The United States still remains far too dependent on foreigncountries for the oil we use daily for transportation, heating andother needs, which leaves supply subject to the whims of dictatorsand at risk from terrorists. One way to address that imbalance isdomestic oil exploration.

However, environmental concerns have kept sections of the AlaskanNational Wildlife Reserve and others from being opened up fordrilling. Expansion of nuclear possibilities has been hinderedbecause of similar issues.

And only recently did the president allow plans for limitedoffshore drilling. Those plans are now on hold in the wake of theGulf oil spill dilemma.

An unfettered “drill, baby, drill” mentality can be problematic,but companies must be able to feasibly and safely explore for oilwithout any undue environmental burdens. Poll results generallygave Obama good marks for his oil spill response while also sayingoil exploration should be not be curtailed because of the Gulfdisaster.

The key is to seek oil in a safe and reasonable environmentallyconscientious way, but also to be ready with a quick solutionshould problems arise. That solution, unfortunately, has not comeabout in this case – and coastal communities are waiting to see theconsequences.