Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Obama's unforced errors: TPP and now Arctic drilling OK

Strike 1: The TransPacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal

But, as John Nichols lays out in The Nation, the American workers are being dealt a bad hand. And Obama is griping about not getting support from his friends. The reason: they don't want "NAFTA on steroids."

AZBlueMeanie weighs in. The problem is that Congress can read the text of the TPP but because it is classified they cannot tell us what is in it. Classified? A trade agreement?

There has been some misinformation I have heard repeated about this trade bill. Many people are under the impression that members of Congress do not know what is being negotiated in this agreement. Not true. Lawmakers are able to read the current text of the trade agreement in a secure viewing area in the Capitol building. Because it is classified, however, they are not allowed to divulge what is in it.

I have to agree with Sen. Warren on this one: "If the president is so confident it’s a good deal, he should declassify the text and let people see it before asking Congress to tie its hands on fixing it" with fast-track authority. How can she defend and explain her position if she is not allowed to divulge what is in the agreement being negotiated, and the general public is not allowed to see it? This debate is occurring in a vacuum of secrecy. To borrow a phrase from Ronald Reagan, "trust but verify."

Strike 2: Obama is set to open up the Arctic Ocean for oil drilling

On one view Obama is doing a balancing act on the environment. He is pushing hard on climate change but also is opening up public lands to drilling. Unfortunately, the environment does not work that way. "Balance" means doing harm. Consider that the Arctic is a far worse place to drill than the Gulf of Mexico. Imagine the BP rig faced with 50 foot waves!

The NY Times reports.

Both industry and environmental groups say that the Chukchi Sea is one of the most dangerous places in the world to drill. The area is extremely remote, with no roads connecting to major cities or deep water ports within hundreds of miles — which makes it difficult for clean-up and rescue workers to get to the site in case of an accident.

The closest Coast Guard station with equipment for responding to a spill is over 1,000 miles away. The weather is extreme, with major storms, icy waters, and waves up to 50 feet high.

The sea is also a major migration route and feeding area for marine mammals, including bowhead whales and walruses.

Equally troubling is that Shell's ability to perform safely is suspect.

The Obama administration had initially granted Shell a permit to begin offshore Arctic drilling in the summer of 2012. However, the company’s first forays into exploring the new waters were plagued with numerous safety and operational problems. Two of its oil rigs ran aground and had to be towed to safety. In 2013, the Interior Department said the company could not resume drilling until all safety issues were addressed.

In a review of the company’s performance in the Arctic, the department concluded that Shell had failed in a wide range of basic operational tasks, like supervision of contractors that performed critical work.

The report was harshly critical of Shell management, which acknowledged that it was unprepared for the problems it encountered operating in the unforgiving Arctic environment.

But the administration is charging ahead with this "balance" anyway. The reaction of Mother Nature will be interesting.

For another, geopolitical, view, check this article in The New Republic.

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