No one asked me. I have absolutely zero qualifications for suggesting a solution to the catastrophic crisis that will dramatically change nearly one quarter of the Western hemisphere for generations. So far the experts haven’t proven that a laundry list of qualifications leads directly to finding a solution. I have my own solution. It is simple. It is imperfect, but I think what it achieves politically, economically and technologically surpasses any imperfections.
Here is what I would do if I were President Obama:
First, tell BP to go home. Nationalize their retail operations to save American jobs – at least until a suitable US buyer can be found. Change the BP signs on every gas station and rejuvenate the “Gulf” brand and have all proceeds go to restoring the Gulf Coast. Shut down BP’s drilling in any and all areas governed by the United States. Revoke their charters, licenses and whatever other red tape allows them to do business here. Cancel all visas and stamp any foreign passports with a big bold “Access to the United States granted for recreational purposes only”. Use an emergency Federal fund to purchase all BP shares owned by American citizens for $.1 over the closing price at market close the day before the disaster – and summarily remove the stock listing from all American Exchanges. Tell BP they can return to the United States market in 100 years or when Forest Gump can fill a shrimp net again – whichever comes first.
Second, tell Exxon Mobil to clean up the Gulf and send all bills to a clearinghouse within the Federal government. Once the bills have been reviewed by an oversight committee, they will be forwarded directly to BP and marked “Due on Receipt”.
Why Exxon Mobil? Aren’t they part of the Big Oil problem in this country? I’m not a huge fan of Exxon, but in light of everything that is going on their involvement makes perfect sense. Hear me out…
Say what you want, but Exxon Mobil learned from the Valdez disaster in 1989. According to the New York Times, “The industry standard for safety, analysts say, is set by Exxon Mobil, which displays an obsessive attention to detail, monitors the smallest spill and imposes scripted procedures on managers.”
It took an 11 million gallon spill, but Exxon Mobil finally understands that it is cheaper in the long run to not cut corners for the sake of more production.
Exxon Mobil is an American company. The news is crowded with local Gulf coast citizens who are beyond angry with BP. While the disaster is more than enough justification for the anger, do not for one second think that there is not a component of the anger enhanced by the fact that this is a foreign company screwing up our Gulf.
By tasking an American company with the cleanup, we accomplish several things:
Exxon Mobil’s world headquarters is in Irving, TX and the headquarters for their Exploration and Producing Operations is in Houston, TX. They are equipped to quickly move into the Gulf and get the process going
All revenue generated by the cleanup will remain within the US. The process will create more American jobs and tax revenue. We’re going to suffer the brunt of the consequences for this disaster – we should reap the benefits (though certainly not substantial enough to offset the damage).
An isolationist approach to the problem would help (if only slightly) lessen the criticism currently spewing from every citizen in the lower 48. Basically, we should adopt the attitude: If you want something done right, do it yourself – and send the bill to BP.
So why would Exxon Mobil even want to touch such a volatile situation? It is simple. It wasn’t there fault…this time. They can play savior and parlay their new position of hero into years worth of consumer and political clout. Besides, we’re only one election season away from a virtually unanimous mandate to shut down off-shore drilling and Exxon Mobil has quite a bit at stake in this debate. They are just chomping at the bit for an opportunity to convince us all that drilling can be done safely – if only you are selective in who you let do it.
Exxon Mobil could take on the task of fixing the problem with virtually no risk of downside. When BP fails yet again at stopping the gusher, it equates to further incompetence and another missed deadline. Exxon Mobil would have a substantially longer leash – they are only trying to help out in an impossible situation, after all. I can see press conference after press conference of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, dressed in cowboy hat and wranglers, shaking his head and lamenting, “This thing is worse than we thought. BP really did a number here. But don’t worry. We’ll figure this thing out if it takes every one of our engineers working around-the-clock every day for ten years.”
Off the top of my head, I cannot thing of a substantial reason why this solution wouldn’t work on both a political and economic level. Of course, Exxon Mobil may not be welcome in the UK as we create an international incident by booting BP from the US, but who really cares? Do you suppose there is more crude in the Gulf of Mexico or in the English Channel?
By the way, did you see where it turns out that BP played a role in the Exxon Valdez spill? As our island friends across the Atlantic might say, “Lovely.”