Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Weak Speech from an Indecisive Obama

One problem with President Obama’s Oval Office speech was his declaration that 90 percent of the oil spill would be captured in “coming days and weeks.” Ah, if only government were that strong and powerful. Trouble is, the spill rate late yesterday afternoon was again revised upward toward 60,000 barrels per day from the prior estimate of 25,000.

To most Americans, and especially those in the Gulf, it’s the spill rate of capture that matters most. Perhaps there’s a magic wand to cure this problem — maybe a spill-rate de-stimulus package — but so far the magic cure remains elusive.

In addition, the president did not announce a Jones Act waiver to bring foreign-flag tankers into the Gulf area. Nor did he announce a new task force of hands-on experienced oilmen from the likes of ExxonMobil and other big oil sisters who actually know what they are doing.

Another problem was Obama’s arrogant announcement that he will be informing BP’s chairman “that he is to set aside” some undisclosed asset amount ($20 billion) for the government-run escrow fund to pay for the spill damages. Trouble is, there are no laws to permit our government to force such financial retribution. Not even a new TARP, at least not yet. Did someone say nationalization? But stock-option and credit-default-insurance markets are already pricing in a BP bankruptcy.

And while the media waited breathlessly for a clear Obama push for cap-and-trade, there was only a passing mention of the House bill, rather than a full-throated call to arms. So it was an indecisive Obama, a rather meek and defensive Obama, in terms of reducing carbon dependence. Of course, Obama knows that cap-and-trade politics will drive up Republican numbers even more in the fall.

But folks would rather see a full-throated and comprehensive energy plan conducted on all fronts — carbon and non-carbon — that would unleash energy entrepreneurs and existing businesses to create more power and more jobs and more economic growth. Besides stopping the spill, this is the key point.

Obama’s weak speech really missed the point.