July 19, 2010 | Commentary on Energy and Environment
Oil's well that ends well -- or so the White House hopes.
Almost as soon as BP announced it had succeeded (at least for now) in plugging the Deepwater Horizon gusher, President Obama called a White House press conference -- his first in nearly a year. His main message: The crisis is over; let the vacation begin!
The assembled press pretty much gave him a pass. The first question: "Did you feel the earthquake, Mr. President?" The tremor Washington had early Friday was 3.2 on the Richter Scale -- not enough to shake a martini, but the wizened Washington press corps apparently found it more newsworthy than the Gulf disaster.
Yet the real work is still ahead. By most estimates, the 86-day leak dumped 100 million to 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf. Unless contained and cleaned up, that contamination will wreak far more damage to the region's economy, environment and way of life than Katrina ever did.
And the president still needs to get the federal act together. I met with state and local officials and business leaders throughout the Gulf region last week. To a man -- and woman -- they felt that the federal response to the disaster has been, itself, a disaster. John Young, head of Louisiana's Jefferson Parish -- one of the hardest-hit areas -- say the feds have been "stuck on stupid" since Day One.
And with the cap working -- and the apparent eagerness of the press to move on to the next story -- locals fear the pressure on BP and the feds to "keep after it" will ease.
Emergencies demand swift, aggressive, multi-pronged remedial action. But in the Gulf, the administration has opted for a centralized, bureaucratic response. State and local officials know what they need to do to contain the spill and clean it up. Yet time and again their efforts have been stymied.
To build rock jetties and other oil barriers -- even to sop up oil when it reaches a swamp -- state and local jurisdictions must first gain approval from multiple federal agencies. Louisiana offered proposal after proposal to block the oil slick heading for Grand Isle.
Yet federal officials sat on the plans for weeks, then rejected them -- and offered no alternatives for preventing the fouling of Barataria Bay.
James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for national and homeland security at The Heri tage Foundation.
First appeared in FOX News