By Kevin Mooney – British Petroleum is anxious to start drilling at 10 existing development and production wells in the Gulf of Mexico before the end of the summer. However, officials with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, have told members of the press that no new permit has been issued and environmental organizations have expressed opposition.
Even before the explosion last year the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, BP had a checkered safety record that included accidents in Texas and Alaska. But, its public relations overtures to the now discredited concept of man-made global warming distracted from this long history of transgressions. It is worth recalling that many of the same green groups that now condemn the company provided it with political cover and legitimacy in the news media. This would include the Sierra Club, which has joined with a Justice Department lawsuit filed last December in the District of Court of New Orleans, that would impose fines under the Clean Water Act.
While the antipathy toward BP is understandable, residents and industry officials who depend upon the energy industry in the Gulf Coast are still living with the economic fallout from the spill. Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA), commented on the Obama Administration’s policy agenda during a luncheon in New Orleans.
“This administration does not like the oil and gas industry,” he observed. Briggs also said there is now “unprecedented uncertainty” affecting investment in the Gulf Coast. Over the past several months, Briggs told audience members he has refused to meet with top administration officials because there is too large of a separation between what they say and what they actually do in terms of policy.
Other companies like ExxonMobil, which have much better safety records than BP, have been set back by the Administration’s response to the oil spill. Top officials with ExxonMobil, such as retired CEO Lee Raymond, have raised questions in the past about the validity of man-made global warming theories that drew a negative response from the press. However, in retrospect, Raymond’s approach to energy policy was more forward-looking and balanced than that of his critics.
“In terms of corporate responsibility there’s considerable irony here,” Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), observed. “Exxon’s safety record is vastly superior to that of BP and its CEO Lee Raymond was ultimately vindicated for his skepticism about man-made global warming. But that’s not something you typically read about even now after the spill.”
Despite current policy, Louisiana remains “The Aorta of the U.S.,” Don Briggs, the LOGA president said. But a change in administration is needed to help unleash the full economic potential of the Gulf Coast and the neighboring regions that also benefit from the energy industry, he added.
There’s a long history where BP is concerned that should be unraveled and exposed in the run up to the 2012 presidential elections. The company helped craft and advance anti-energy policies that are more in keeping with the values European Union and the United Nations than they are with America’s capitalist system.
BP joined forces with Enron to cook up a new model of regulation aimed at restricting carbon dioxide regulations back in the 1990s. Christopher Horner, who served as Enron’s director of federal government relations, recalls the birth of `cap and trade’ schemes.
“It wasn’t until a few far-sighted CEOs, Ken Lay and John Browne, saw the opportunity for massive, guaranteed revenue streams guaranteed not on the basis of performance, but politics, did the greens’ agenda find political legs.” said Horner, who is now a policy analyst with The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). “Together they helped create a classic Baptists and Bootlegger coalition: the Business Council for a Sustainable Development with less-measured activist groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists. Together, as I learned, they worked closely on a plan to get a global warming treaty, with the U.S. involved, crafted to their liking and with a domestic ‘cap-and-trade’ scheme and other pots of money spinning gold from their uneconomic ‘investments’ made on the cheap for obvious reason.”
BP was also a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a coalition of business and environmental groups that lobbied on behalf of regulations modeled after the Kyoto Protocol. That coalition is beginning to unravel. But the high price of politically correct exercises that distract from genuine ecological precautions remains in effect.
Kevin Mooney is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinMooneyDC.