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May 31, 2010

BP Backlash: Boycott? Bailout? Receivership?

I have waited to see a backlash against BP for ruining the Gulf Of Mexico, and I expected that by now we'd be seeing a quixotic consumer boycott. I'm surprised to find BP gas stations filled with happy eager customers over the long weekend.

Maybe they haven't made the connection between BP oil platforms and the green-and-flowery BP gas pumps. Maybe that's one of our problems.


There seemed to be a similar cognitive dissonance about supply and demand, lifestyle and disaster when 29 coal miners were recently killed at the Upper Big Branch Mine. We don't seem to make the connection.

For the record, I'd like to clarify that IANAD (I am not a Democrat) NTTAWWT (not that there's anything wrong with that). But if I were a Democrat, it would be because of Democrats like Harry Truman, Daniel Moynihan, and Robert Reich.

In his blog today, Robert Reich provides five cogent reasons for President Obama putting BP under temporary federal receivership.
1. We are not getting the truth from BP. Government must be clearly in charge of getting all the facts, not waiting for what BP decides to disclose and when.

2. We have no way to be sure BP is devoting enough resources to stopping the gusher. BP is now saying it has no immediate way to stop up the well until August. August? If government were in direct control of BP’s North American assets, it would be able to devote whatever of those assets are necessary to stopping up the well right away.

3. BP’s new strategy for stopping the gusher is highly risky. Scientists say that could result in 20 percent more oil gushing from the well. At least under government receivership, objective officials would be directly accountable for weighing the advantages and disadvantages of such a strategy.

4. Right now, the U.S. government has no authority to force BP to adopt a different strategy or over the disaster scene. Carol Browner said, “We told (BP) of our very, very grave concerns” about risks. Expressing grave concerns is not enough. The President needs legal authority to order BP to protect the United States.

5. The President is not legally in charge. As long as BP is not under the direct control of the government he has no direct line of authority, and responsibility is totally confused. There is no good reason why “they” are in charge of an operation of which “we” are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
If we can take over AIG and General Motors because of the risk that current management and their actions have posed to the national economy, can't the Federal Government take over BP for ruining the Gulf of Mexico, thwarting development of domestic oilfields, and causing actual damage to the economy?

Reich concludes by saying, "No president would allow a nuclear reactor owned by a private for-profit company to melt down in the United States while remaining under the direct control of that company. The meltdown in the Gulf is the environmental equivalent."

Robert Reich rocks.


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