Placing blame on the spill? Look to your left

James L. Martin Contributor
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Attorney General Eric Holder, at the behest of his boss, President Obama, is looking to file criminal charges over the BP oil rig explosion. Naturally, we all wait to see if he’ll name the Secretary of the Interior as co-defendant. Americans were shocked to learn of the Interior’s cozy relationship with the industry it’s supposed to regulate.

This “you scratch my back” mentality seems to have so deeply permeated the bureaucracy that companies are being left to their own devices when it comes to the serious business of exploration and development. And while many companies’ devices are good, it appears as though BP’s were not.

Still, rather than hosting another dog-and-pony show in a kangaroo court, the President and Congress could better serve the public by doing something to help ensure another catastrophe doesn’t happen again.

Take, for instance, the current, asinine, perverse, two-faced, liberal energy policy that forces our nation’s energy producers to push the engineering and mechanical envelope in places that are prone to hurricanes, rough seas, and harsh winds where an accident could impact the lives of millions. At the same time in desolate Alaska, Washington has outlawed development of oil that is literally oozing up between our toes (if the ground ever thawed out enough). The political rationale? Drilling there may sully the pristine vast land (some say wasteland) that is the 49th state. Similar feel good yet unfounded policies have blocked much more accessible sources of oil on land and in shallow offshore waters that wouldn’t run the risk of a BP-type disaster.

Though enviros are gearing up to make as much hay as possible over the terrible accident in the Gulf, they should first pause to turn their critical eye back on themselves. The members of Congress who have voted to block the development of ANWR are equally complicit.

Now in its second month, the BP oil rig catastrophe that claimed 11 lives and threatens many more (political lives for sure) remains a media story without a clear plot line. Even with the prominence of a for-profit (and therefore “evil”) oil company in the mix, the press is still having a difficult time determining within this tangled web who exactly is playing the role of good guy and bad.

President Obama auditioned for the heroic lead during his May 27th East Room press conference, saying he was “fully engaged” and fixing the problem was his “highest priority.” Only took him six weeks. He apparently forgot that he “owned” this spill by law beginning on day one.

Casting a pall on Obama’s audition were not only Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) announcement that she was “not satisfied” with the Administration’s actions, but also Obama’s proclaimed lack of knowledge that his own Director of Minerals Management Services, political appointee Elizabeth Birnbaum, was ousted that day.

We need oil. We love oil. We cannot LIVE without it, least of all the politicians and media elites who spare no expense to travel the globe in oil-thirsty aluminum tubes to tell us all to use less of it. Yes, Mr. Gore, you! Oil is the engine of our economy, of our industry, indeed of freedom itself. Yet, any talk of expanding of domestic supply occurring in the halls of Washington – at least those within earshot of the national press corps – will have all the enthusiasm of a pet owner following his Beagle around the park with a plastic bag.

“Green,” you see, is the black gold of 2010.The nation, we’re told, wants renewable, reusable, clean, efficient and inexpensive energy – which could all be had if we just erect a few more windmills and solar panels. And raise your hand, if you want to play shortstop for the Yankees.

As the BP accident shows, oil may be the fourth rail of American politics; get it right or get packing. Obama is now watching his poll numbers sink, but his fate on this issue was set long ago by his own crowd, regardless of his own lack of leadership or culpability on the issue.

Most oil and natural gas companies have taken the hand Washington dealt and still managed to effectively and safely provide our nation with the fuel it needs to run. The President and Congress should learn from these companies’ best practices – see what they’re doing right – and compare them to others’ worst practices and bring real standards to drilling operations. We cannot prevent acts of God, but we can prevent acts of laziness and idiocy.

If the White House were serious about both finding more energy sources and protecting the environment, more onshore and shallow water areas would be open for energy exploration, not fewer. Energy exploration and development companies would live and work under an established set of guidelines, and bureaucrats would take their roles as public servants seriously. Then perhaps, Obama would see better poll numbers regarding his leadership since he would finally appear “fully engaged” in creating more sources of energy instead of creating more corporate criminals.

James L. Martin serves as the Chairman of the 60 Plus Association.