If they aren’t using straw to soak up oil in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s probably because the available supply has been exhausted by politicians building straw men to knock down.
In the two months since BP’s Deepwater Horizon blew out, politicians from every point in the spectrum have looked for a villain to blame. It’s been quite a show.
There was Sarah Palin’s head-scratcher about President Obama being in cahoots with the oil companies. Obama, helpless to stop the leak, sought to determine “whose ass to kick” at BP when his main concern clearly was covering his own. Meanwhile in Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized the feds for delaying approval of plans to spend several hundred million dollars on sand berms that will take months to build and are likely to do more environmental harm than good.
On Capitol Hill, straw men have been ubiquitous – no surprise there. Lawmakers have tripped over each other to hold investigations and introduce poorly thought-out legislation. My favorite: New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s bill to require relief wells to be drilled simultaneously with all new ones – a plan even environmentalists say is nuts, because it doubles the chance of an accident. What Lautenberg and many others in Congress really want, of course, is to ban all U.S. deepwater drilling off U.S. shores – which means the rigs will go to Angola, Brazil and other places where the rules aren’t as strict. Or maybe we’ll all get a tax break to buy a horse.
The latest straw man is the Jones Act, which Arizona Sen. John McCain claims is impeding the use of non-U.S. marine equipment to clean up the spill. McCain is a longtime critic of the Jones Act, which restricts domestic commerce to U.S.-flag, U.S.-built vessels. Last week he introduced a bill to repeal the act. In addition to the oil spill, McCain renewed his assertion that the Jones Act penalizes consumers to reward domestic operators, shipbuilders and unions. Reasonable people can disagree on whether the Jones Act should remain on the books, but it’s clear from available evidence that the Jones Act is not impeding the Gulf oil cleanup.
Foreign vessels can operate freely in international waters and are part of the armada trying to skim spilled oil from around the blown-out well 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. To operate within three miles of shore, foreign equipment would need a waiver from the Jones Act – something U.S. operators say they won’t oppose if no U.S. equipment is available.
If we want to have a debate on the Jones Act, fine. But using the Gulf oil spill to advance a repeal agenda appears to be a little more than a publicity ploy.
There’s got to be a better use for straw.