Opinion » Ted Rall

Obama's Katrina

The president can't lead, so he should quit

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NEW YORK—British Petroleum isn't dithering. Yes, it's been five weeks since the most devastating oil spill in U.S. history. But it's probably impossible to fix.

A new BP document has come to light: To save a few bucks BP executives decided to go with a cheaper, riskier well casing at its doomed Deepwater Horizon platform—one without a redundant safety system that might have prevented the explosion and subsequent spill. Greg McCormack, director of the Petroleum Extension Service at the University of Texas at Austin, told The New York Times that BP's choice was "without a doubt a riskier way to go."

This is Obama's Katrina. And people are pissed. Not fake pissed, like the Tea Partiers who think he's a socialist because of his lame health-care package. They're actually, seriously, this-time-we-mean-it pissed. Because, get-the-guvmint-outta-my-life rhetoric aside, Americans expect their government to do something when something this big and this stupid happens. They have that right. Taxes ought to accomplish something other than killing Iraqis and Afghans.

So where is President Barack Obama?

Stuck changing planes on his way to Clueistan, evidently.

"The spill in the Gulf, which is heartbreaking, only underscores the necessity of seeking alternative fuel sources," he argued.

Voila! That's the extent of Obama's response to Deepsix Horizon: talking about alternative energy.

Reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and transitioning to solar, wind and other clean sources of energy is long overdue. But that will take decades. Not that Obama is even trying. His new 2012 budget calls for a mere $6 billion increase—the same amount we spend to kill Iraqis and Afghans for three weeks—for subsidies to companies trying to develop greener fuels. From 2002 to 2008, while gas prices and profits were skyrocketing, Big Oil received $72 billion in your tax dollars. A preemptive bailout, I assume.

If Obama were half as hopey changey as he claimed during the campaign, BP's North American operations would now be U.S. government property, nationalized in order to compensate the fishermen and other injured parties in the Gulf. If he had an ounce of toughness he would require that every car sold in the United States beginning in 2011 be a hybrid. Sales of SUVs and light trucks would be banned; existing models would have to be retired from U.S. roadways within two years. All offshore drilling would be prohibited.

He could do other things. The presence of U.S. troops in Iraq caused a huge leap in oil prices. Bring them home. Solar panels should be mass produced by government-owned and operated factories and distributed at federally subsidized prices to homeowners and developers. The wind power and geothermal industries could be radically expanded with the $2 billion a week we'd save by ending the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Obama is in the pocket of Big Oil. In fact, he's making things worse: Even after the spill began in the Gulf, his Department of Energy was still issuing new offshore drilling permits!

Resign, Mr. President. You won't be missed.

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