Maybe the jury is still out in some quarters, but can there be any doubt that the BP Gulf blowout and oil spill was an over-hyped “environmental catastrophe”? It has been reliably reported that the death of birds was less than 1% of the number in the Exxon-Valdez spill and that the fertilizer runoff into the Gulf long predates the spill. There remains the question of “the missing oil” from the spill, but the reports from scientists I have read so far are that the data do not indicate anything like a catastrophe. Of course, the loss of any amount of wildlife is tragic, and the loss of human life both tragic and avoidable in this case, but most of the economic damage has been caused or at least made worse by failed government policy during the reaction to the spill and in the aftermath. To name a couple of examples: the decision not to waive the Jones Act so as to allow foreign flag vessels to help with the cleanup and the denial of Louisiana Governor Jindal’s proposal to allow oil skimming from the water surface. Of course, the most disastrous decision has been the drilling moratorium, which has no doubt inflicted much more long-term damage on the Gulf economy and its people than the explosion and the spill. Certainly, BP and its partners should be held responsible and liable to the fullest extent under law, but as is so often the case we find that government is at least as much the problem as the solution.
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