If there is a recurring tale in this new century, it is that the Gulf Coast is where political fortunes go to die. The Gulf in the 21st century has become the delicate-yet-furious eco-nightmare in which central planners and corporate heads get bogged down, before having their heads placed upon the electronic guillotine of cable news.
Since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, unlocking the ocean floor, Washington has spent its energies asking for “public clarification” from BP for costs associated with the cleanup. Private lawyers have flocked to the Gulf coast under the auspices that there will be something worth suing when this oceanic apocalypse is ultimately stopped – by someone else. The Army Corps of Engineers spent no small amount of time weighing the various permits necessary for mitigating this disaster; a disaster that doesn’t seem to be waiting for a permit to worsen.
In response, the Incumbent Chorus in Washington has wheeled out their dusty organ, tuned to the key of outrage, and played their favorite, pew-shaking hit single – the funeral march.
We get it. BP’s oil-soaked goose is cooked. We get it further; this crisis will ultimately enable the nationalization of oil. Not overtly, but via the de facto nationalization that accompanies mega-regulation – the kind that prices everyone out of the market except those operators too big to be anything other than quasi-government entities. This will increase the likelihood, in the future, of more tragedies like the one presently consuming the Gulf. Government isn’t designed to be anything other than a representative body. Decades of maniacally adopting authorities, like an over-caffeinated foster-parent, have left the government accountable for tragedies beyond its ability. The government’s problem is not one of politics, but physics. During genuine crises like the one unfolding in the Gulf, all the causal studies, test cases, policy frameworks, emergency grants and deputized bureaucrats aren’t worth one contractor with an F-150, a front end loader and a big bag of bentonite.
Failure to recognize that is what routinely leaves Washington appearing to be at war with competence. This disaster is more than a month old and yet the oil continues to gush from the ocean floor, with recent videos indicating that the crude is now darker and yielding greater polluting effects upon the Gulf.
At the moment, while BP works to plug their leak, Washington should focus exclusively on coordinating containment and cleanup.
Rather than arguing over fault and providing monologues in this theater of outrage – there should be railcars loading out of Evansville, Wyo., night and day with bentonite. Eighteen-wheelers should be rolling south to Louisiana with hay and excess grains. These absorptive materials have the ability to soak up the oil, which can then be corralled, scooped, dredged, and loaded onto barges for delivery to a containment site – where they can be stored in the very railcars that are presently sitting idle due to the lackluster economy. Any contractor worth his salt will find a market for that sludge within days, and the Pelicans will simply look on with their beady little eyes, wondering what all the fuss is about.