Who told Obama deep-sea drilling was “absolutely safe”?
Byron York gives us a great whodunit today, and actually a second Obamateurism of the Day. In his speech on Tuesday, Obama defended his earlier decision to expand off-shore drilling because he had been told that such activity was “absolutely safe.” If Obama actually believed that, then a few people would like to sell him a bridge or two:
There was one particularly striking moment in President Obama’s widely panned Oval Office speech on the Gulf oil disaster. About midway through his talk, Obama acknowledged that he had approved new offshore drilling a few weeks before the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion on April 20. But Obama said he had done so only “under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe.”
Absolutely safe? Even before the Gulf spill, few defenders of offshore drilling would go that far. And when the president announced his drilling plan, on March 31, he said it was “not a decision that I’ve made lightly” and that he and his advisers had “looked at [it] closely for more than a year.” Surely he was told of the possible risks.
“If you can find anything that’s absolutely safe, I sure want to find out about it,” says Robert Bea, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. “There is no engineering system that I am aware of that has zero likelihood of failure.”
“We can never be absolutely safe,” adds Ken Arnold, an independent consultant to the oil and gas industry. “The only way you can be absolutely certain of being absolutely safe is to shut down all production and all drilling from offshore today.”
Every engineering endeavor entails some risk. Even mass production of “green” energy has its risks to the people involved and the environment in which it is conducted. Any time pipes carry anything under high pressure across any kind of distance, risks exist on breakages, spills, and contamination.
York tries to don his Sherlock Holmes’ deerstalker hat and Inverness cape, but finds a number of people denying that they told Obama any such thing. Obama’s Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who won the Nobel Prize as Obama reminded everyone again on Tuesday, says through his spokesperson that it’s not his department and referred York to Ken Salazar, who hasn’t won anything but big Stetsons. Salazar and Interior gave York the silent treatment, as did Carol Browner, the director of the administration’s energy and climate-change policy.
However, York does finally blow the lid off of this mystery:
Of course, there’s a third possibility. Since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Obama has taken a lot of heat from liberals who never liked his pro-drilling decision in the first place. Maybe he used the words “absolutely safe” to deflect blame and make himself look a little better in retrospect.
Most whodunits end with a confession anyway. Either Obama is lying about being told that off-shore drilling was “absolutely safe,” or he was foolish enough to believe it when someone sold him that line. Neither makes Obama look very good.