Oil Spill Clean-up Needs Leadership
Letter to the Editor

Sir, At the risk of being "flamboyantly unreasonable", I should like to take issue with several of Clive Crook's points in his article "If mud sticks, unfairly, so can oil" (June 7). What Mr Crook and many other commentators have failed to distinguish is the separate challenges of blocking the oil pouring from the wellhead on the one hand, and cleaning up the spilled oil and restoring the beaches and marshlands on the other.

I fully agree that plugging the well is basically a question of technology and technique that was and is best left under the management of BP (in consultation with other Gulf oil producers). Certainly, here the administration was wise not to attempt hands-on direction, and criticism of the plugging operation is largely unfounded - with this caveat: for two weeks after the spill Barack Obama used his bully pulpit to drive home the point that BP was totally at fault and that BP was totally responsible for efforts to turn round this environmental disaster, only to turn on a dime suddenly and assert that he and his team had been fully in control the entire time.

No matter - the really valid criticism stems not from the plugging operation, but from the failure, down to today, of the administration (the government) to take charge of co-ordinating the long-term clean-up and restoration effort.

Even assuming that some of the complaints by state and local officials and citizens are overwrought, the evidence of dereliction is overwhelming, whether from lack of boomers and skimmers, crews to burn off or disperse the oil, or manpower and resources to protect beaches and wetlands far from the spill.

In this case, it is not President Obama's lack of emotion that can be faulted; rather it is that the cool analytic detachment did not produce a plan to "get the job done" as he promised in defending his leadership style several days ago.

Claude Barfield is a resident scholar at AEI.

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