Economics, Energy and the Environment

Obama’s Omission Commission

oil-spill-dollarPresident Obama has appointed a seven-person commission to look into the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig explosion that triggered the worst oil spill in American history. And the president seems to have learned a lesson from his administration’s last exercise in panel construction that blew up when the experts they appointed ratted them out to the press for putting words in their mouths.

This time, it seems, the president has decided to avoid another such debacle by appointing politically active, non-experts to his new committee. As an article in the Wall Street Journal suggests, the president’s committee looks less like an investigative unit and more like an activist brigade, lacking even a single expert in oil drilling.

Take, for example, Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Beinecke holds a master’s degree in forestry and environmental studies, nothing to sneeze at, but also nothing that would give her any expertise in oil drilling, the problems that can afflict it, or what kinds of technologies might prevent it. NRDC is currently trying to profiteer from the BP spill, trying to get Congress to adopt “comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that puts this country on the path to sustainable and renewable power and fuel.” This is code for putting cap-and-trade legislation in place and hiking the price of energy, which would have virtually nothing to do with making oil exploration safer. And, in a show of her devotion to objectivity, she’s called for banning offshore and arctic oil drilling five times since the BP blowout.

Then there’s Fran Ulmer, chancellor of the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Ulmer, according to the Journal, “wants government policies ‘that reduce vehicle miles traveled’ (i.e., driving in cars).” Ulmer is a lawyer, who, according to her Wikipedia bio, has worked within government for 30 years. Yep, it’s clear that a lawyer who opposes driving is going to bring in an unbiased perspective about oil exploration, production, and use.

From the Journal’s brief descriptions of the commissioners, it’s apparent that they all have a strong anti-oil bias. One hopes that the Gulf Coast quickly adapts to shrinking economies. With this bunch in charge of investigating the BP spill and proposing what to do about it, the Gulf Coast may be heading into a long dry spell when it comes to new oil exploration and development.

Image by USFWS/Southeast

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