My two weeks on the ground in Louisiana have been a complete learning experience. Not only have I learned more about the Machiveallen machinations of large corporate America, but also of the media and the spin our country has adopted as truth. Ultimately the nation’s learning experience from the BP/Halliburton/TransOcean Oil Spill will never result in changes or answers, but more reasons to lessen corporate governmental oversight on large industry. How as an individual am I to balance a healthy belief in a free market economy based on the oil industry as the driving factor behind our financial success with the atrocities and finger-pointing the entities responsible for the mess are trying to shoulder off on the other? I didn’t think I could, but a Republican senator from Alaska may have changed my mind.
Last week Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Bill Nelson of Florida introduced a bill to the Senate which would lift the claims limit set by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990’s cap of 75 million to an astounding 10 billion dollars. The bill had support; however, Senator Murkowski from Alaska, the top Republican on the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, objected to the bill and has effectively stalled it.
As nefarious as one may think the drilling industry is, we are inexplicably tied to and depend on it for our immediate energy source. We cannot start screaming to end drilling; it can be done safely and it can be done with heavier regulation that ensures the safety of our fishing and estuarine grounds. Luckily we have level-headed leadership like Ms. Murkowski who will look at both sides of the situation before throwing immediate changes at regulation and policy that were never responsibly enforced in the first place.
Senator Murkowski’s stalling of the OPA cap raise to 10B from the 75M may seem calloused at first glance, but take a deeper look and she makes complete sense. A 10B dollar cap on a business like BP that made 6.6B in profit in the first quarter of 2010 is simply a stumbling block to their larger economic picture. The breakdown of production from domestic drilling is 4million gallons per day. Foreign oil production weighs in at a 9million barrels per day. Most of our domestic oil production is either drilled by out-of -country entities, like BP, but a large portion comes from domestic companies who could not survive an adverse economic impact like a spill the magnitude of the BP spill.
Ms. Murkowski’s insight asks for equal punishment for corporate sins. She argues to lift all limits on the financial exposure the incident places BP in. If a domestic drilling and exploratory company were hit with a 10B dollar uh-oh, they are out of business and the percentage of the American foreign oil dependency continues to increase. If we are to intelligently argue for the best way to end our dependency on foreign oil, we have to level the playing field. This does not start by giving European corporations, who create what can easily turn into the worst devastation our environment has witnessed in a lifetime, an unfair advantage and place our local American-Dream seeking companies in perilous financial risk.
I learned an early lesson long before I had knew I was learning: if I messed it up, I cleaned it up. Why should we even be discussing financial caps for corporate responsibility? Shouldn’t this allow us to focus on reasons to end foreign oil dependency and more research for alternative energy resources? Ms. Murkowski’s right: lift all caps on corporate exposure. If you’re big enough to play in the game, don’t develop your response and budget pratfalls on the US public’s position to pay. We need more leadership like Ms. Murkowski, willing to examine the issues and act responsibly rather than throw untested and untried solutions on a knee-jerk whim. Congress, stop reacting, lift all caps on corporate fiscal responsibility, get proactive, and start regulating the 3000+ rigs in the Gulf who are still drilling before this happens again.