Goodbye Redneck Riviera

obama oil spillJust before his daily briefing Wednesday, Admiral Thad Allen, the President’s military point man in the Gulf, had the BP logo removed from the podium. The White House apparently wants to distance itself from Bad Petroleum.

But confusion over who’s in charge – BP or the White House – continues to reign. Questioned about whether BP can successfully shear off the well pipe in order to fit a cap over it, Allen answered “I don’t think the issue is whether or not we can make the second cut. It’s about how fine we can make it, how smooth we can make it.”

As Tonto asked the Lone Ranger, “who’s we kemosabe?”

“We” – that is, the American people and its representatives – are not in control of this. BP is in control. Yet BP has a long record of negligence, and it was BP’s negligence that probably caused this disaster. So why is it in control?

If BP’s attempt to cap the well fails again, BP says America will have to wait until August to stop the surge of oil into the Gulf, when BP says it will complete a relief well.

August is way too late. Since the explosion on April 20, the gusher has leaked anywhere from 21 million to 45 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. At that rate, the Gulf will be filled with more than twice that amount by August.

How do we know BP is using every possible resource to stop this? How do we know it’s providing accurate information? How do we know it’s properly weighing risks and benefits to America?

Politics is about to take over from policy in any event. Forecasters say the oil will probably start washing up on Florida’s coast this Friday – not only threatening its fragile system of bays and islands, but also rendering miles of white-sand beaches unusable. The tourist destination that’s been called the “Redneck Riviera” will be coated with thick black ooze.

If you think there’s been a political firestorm so far, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Florida’s beaches are crucial to its economy. In 2008, at least 60 percent of vacation spending in Florida occurred in beachfront cities. Florida’s economy is central to its politics. And Florida’s politics is – well, think back on the last several presidential elections.

robert_reich.jpgThe President is proposing to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for the oil companies. He’s appointed a commission to find out why BP’s well blew.

But unless or until he takes charge – putting BP’s U.S. subsidiary under temporary receivership, forcing BP to use all its available resources and submit itself to full federal oversight and control – his own presidency is in danger of being tarred by the same thick gunk that’s about to wash up on the Redneck Riviera.

Robert Reich

This article first appeared on Robert Reich’s Blog. Republished with permission


  1. says

    Leaving BP in charge of capping the well and cleaning up the environmental damage is like inviting a convicted pedophile to babysit your children. I think there is no clearer example of the complete corporate take over of our country than the non-response to this spill.

    Wake up and smell the oil – the well will not be capped in August, that estimate is a joke! It took Mexico 9 months to drill a relief well in only several feet of water – let alone over a mile under sea! Oil will flow until the entire gulf is a dead zone, Florida is a toxic pool of oil and rotting carcasses, and a good portion of the East Coast is likewise drenched in oil. Then add hurricanes to the mix – oil spreads miles inland. And we all know what oil is, right? Flammable.

    This spill has left me feeling like Sandra Bullock. I voted for Obama. I thought he had my back. Turns out he’s a corporate tool that is just standing by and doing nothing during the greatest disaster of any kind in our country’s history. To continue to allow BP to physically control the coastlines, beaches and waters, and to allow BP to be in charge of cleanup is insane. Obama’s non-response to the spill is 100 times worse than Bush after Katrina – worse because the stakes are so, so much higher. Our country’s entire southern and eastern coastlines are under attack, and Obama can’t even spare more than three hours to visit. Truly unbelievable. Isn’t our military supposed to protect our country? Isn’t our President supposed to protect us? It is clear beyond a doubt that President Obama’s priority is to protect corporate interests and power.

    • Robert says

      The ability for the US government to act in these matters was sold off, it was privatised. As with all privatised government roles, the profitable elements were kept going and the unprofitable elements were shut down. Dealing with major oil leaks is unprofitable because they are intermittent can not be forecast and they require a huge amount of resources that is far to costly to leave sitting idle between disasters.
      Unlike Hurricane Katrina where the government could simply send in the military to provide temporary shelter and food but instead decided to do nothing for three days while Dick Cheney’s company got their act together for a no-bid contract and negotiated kick back.
      There is nothing the president can do to either plug the underwater oil gusher or prevent the harm it is and will cause. If it was possible BP would have done it already, their only for profit option is to B$ (lie for profit) and stretch things out while they quietly pull capital out of the US and try to sell off other valuable assets before going belly up.

  2. Melissa Shipps says

    I used to live in Mobile, AL and have enjoyed the Redneck Riviera. A beautiful part of the country. I wonder if there’s a way to filter the water on our own…thanks for the article!

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