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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Obama Administration Hubris and American Protectionism Delaying Gulf Oil Cleanup

If any country in the world would be able to help the US clean up the BP Oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico it would have to be the Netherlands. They have been controlling the North Sea for over 2000 years. Twenty-five years ago, they created an entire new province via their mastery of dikes and pumps. Surely they could help us control the ever increasing flow of oil toward the gulf coast.

That's what the Dutch thought also. Apparently just three days after the Deepwater Horizon  platform exploded and began to hemorrhage petroleum, the Netherlands offered a helping hand. They wanted to send ships to clear up the spill via Dutch sweeping arms skimmers. The US said thanks but no thanks.  

Dutch Consul General Geert Visser in Houston told Radio Netherlands Worldwide he was disappointed. The US response, says Mr Visser: “‘Thanks for your help, but at the moment we can manage ourselves.’ And that was it.” He puts the reticence down to pride.
One month into the crisis, when the President started receiving criticism for the administration's feeble efforts in managing the cleanup, the administration changed its mind, 
“Almost a month later – a month too late, of course – Washington did make a request to send the sweeping arms to Houston in Texas,” says Mr Visser. “They arrived in three 747s, ten days later. They were then transported to Louisiana to be mounted on ships.”
American ships have been now fitted with those arms and should be helping with the cleanup efforts any day now.According to Dutch officials, each pair of arms can clear around 20,000 tons of oil a day.

The US also said no to another Dutch proposal. The Dutch knowledge institute Deltares and dredging company Van Oord put proposed a plan to build a sand dyke stretching for dozens of kilometres within three weeks. If it was accepted immediately they would have been built by now, only recently did the Obama administration change its mind.
According to the Foundry Blog
All told, thirteen countries have offered to help us clean up the Gulf, and the Obama administration has turned them all down.

According to one Dutch newspaper, European firms could complete the oil spill clean up by themselves in just four months, and three months if they work with the United States, which is much faster than the estimated nine months it would take the Obama administration to go it alone. The major stumbling block is a protectionist piece of legislation called the Jones Act which requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens. But in an emergency this law can be temporarily waived as DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff did after Katrina. Each day our European allies are prevented from helping us speed up the clean up is another day that Gulf fishing and tourism jobs die.
If the US waived the Jones Act because of the emergency, and allowed "foreign shipping" in the gulf the cleanup would be much faster. However it was the hubris of the Obama administration that prevented other countries from helping with the cleanup at the beginning of this crisis and it is their continued hubris slowing down the execution of the help that has been offered.

There is no reason to blame Barack Obama or any President for the accident and explosions that caused this oil spill, but it is very clear that the President and his administration has exacerbated the crisis by refusing a helping hand from those with the experience to clean up the continued flow of Oil into the Gulf.

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