As the BP spill gets steadily worse, and the move-like methods to plug it keep failing, it's increasingly hard not to blame the administration. I've been somewhat sympathetic to the arguments that the expertise to stop it lies with BP and that figuring out how to stop it was a more pressing concern than figuring out exactly how much it was leaking. But an increasingly alarming number of facts about how dysfunctional the monitoring agency, the Minerals Management Service, is are coming to light. They were cozy with the companies, and just a few years ago they brought us a sexy drug scandal out of the Denver office.
A lot of those problems began and exacerbated under the Bush administration, but the Obama administration was pretty slow-moving in dealing with them. And while it seems unclear what the administration could do, surely it could do something.
At the same time, it's important to keep some things in perspective. By some estimates, the spill puts out 70,000 barrels a day, which puts the entire amount since the explosion more than a month ago if the flow was steady, at over 2 million barrels. That makes it a huge disaster, too much to wrap one's mind around. But to keep it in better perspective, Americans burn about 10 times that, 21 million barrels, each day. It would only take us a couple of hours to use up everything in the Gulf. This is despite everything we know about how bad burning oil is. Given that, it's not surprising that an oil company might rank our desire for oil more highly than our undemonstrated desire to avoid ecological disaster.
-- Monica Potts