Valentine: Don't overreact to oil spill

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's interesting -- almost amusing -- to watch President Obama one moment profess to be in charge of the oil spill containment then shift authority over to BP when things aren't going well. Such was the case when the top kill method began. Mr. Obama insisted that he was in charge and running the show, that is until the top kill solution ended up going south.

It would be amusing were the stakes not so high.

Remember Larry Tate, Darrin Stephens' boss on Bewitched? He would fly into a full-fledged panic over Stephens' advertising ideas, calling them the worst he had ever seen, that is until the client said he loved them. "That's exactly what I was thinking, J.B.," Tate would crow, then proceed to take credit for everything.

President Obama is the Larry Tate of this disaster.

When things are looking up he wants to appear in charge. When things are looking down he reminds everyone that BP is in charge of stopping the oil spill.

The truth is BP is ultimately responsible for the leak and the cleanup. However, there were some things that could have been done early on by our government to protect our coastline but they were not. An emergency dredging of the barrier islands could've protected the marshes. The plan was held up over an environmental review and precious time was lost.

A blue ribbon panel of five of the nation's leading scientists was assembled. One of the five, Jonathan Katz of Washington University, was found to have written some Internet blogs critical of affirmative action. Obama fired him from the panel. Never mind that he might have been valuable in the effort to figure out a way to stop the leak and contain the spill. Like the environmental review, political correctness trumped common sense.

Make no mistake, this was not the government's disaster. It was an accident that happened under the watch of BP and a thorough investigation of what caused it should follow. However, what we're probably going to find is this was an accident, plain and simple. Accidents do happen, especially when radical environmentalists dictate policy that pushes oil companies further and further offshore to drill for oil.

The moratorium on any future exploration -- either offshore or on -- will be the manmade disaster. It's foolish to discontinue exploration because of one oil spill. Granted, it's a heckuva spill. However, it shouldn't color our judgment when it comes to providing for our nation's energy needs.

Al Gore and the radical environmentalists point to this disaster with an almost giddy "I told you so." They say it just underscores our nation's need to move to alternative energy. On that point they're right. We do need to move toward alternative sources of energy.

But these things don't happen overnight. There's not enough wind or solar energy to go around. It's great to want to move to cleaner energy but we simply aren't there yet. The solution envisioned by Gore and others is to have the U.S. government subsidize companies that are developing alternative energy. Problem is the vast majority will fail even with government help.

The market needs to decide this. There are literally thousands of businesses trying to nose one another out to see who gets to feed at the government trough. Instead they should be selling their ideas to venture capitalists to compete in the free market.

One company has emerged as one of the leaders in alternative energy. They operate wind farms in the Midwest and build solar modules. They've developed biofuels and are leaders in carbon capture and storage. Ironically, it's BP.