The United States is currently facing the worst ecological disaster in history. Furthermore, President Barack Obama, considered one of the most environmentally conscious leaders on the planet, faces an uproar of national and international criticism for his administration’s lack of involvement in the recovery efforts. So much so that the President acknowledged his shortcomings at a news conference, claiming full responsibility for the administration’s inefficient response to the oil spill, now ominously named the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. “Where I was wrong,” he stated, “was in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios.”
And indeed, it seems that British Petroleum (BP) has accomplished little in the recovery efforts. This is not to say that they’re ignoring the situation. They’ve spent nearly $940 million dollars since the disaster occurred six weeks ago. This includes efforts to stem the seemingly endless flow of oil into our waterways, and the clean up of the oil that has already caked itself onto US soil. But as an international company operating within the United States, what kind of backlash are they facing from the US citizens and from international opinion? In the end, who is to blame for the diplomatic and environmental disaster on the horizon? This series of blogs will explore the reaction to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, examining how the world public views the efforts of the Obama administration and the BP company to stem the flow of sludge currently floating towards our coastlines.
First, the United States government: has the Obama administration handled the situation to the best of its ability? President Obama is quick to defend US efforts, claiming that everything is now being done to combat the spill as quickly as possible. The government has made “the largest effort of its kind in US history”, and those who criticize the seemingly inexpedient nature of its involvement are misinformed. Unfortunately, the debate has become one large game of pointing fingers, quickly becoming tiresome and repetitive. Speaker of the House Pelosi blames the Bush Administration’s close relations with the oil companies for conveniently overlooking safety protocols. Whereas Republicans are quick to point out that Obama, so quick to demonize the Bush administration over the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe during his campaign, is facing a similar situation.
No matter the response from the administration itself, the national and international public alike hold clear opinions, and the response isn’t cheery. For example, a recent Gallup poll found that 53 percent see Obama’s response to the spill as “poor” or “very poor.” Other polls from CNN show similar results. When perusing the responses from international sources, they are thankfully bereft of most of the finger pointing. Instead, they focus on the real issue: the effect on the environment, and the success of the recovery efforts. More importantly, they examine the far reaching consequences of an oil spill of this level. Yes, the environment will be horribly damaged, but the economy is just as fragile. And this is an especially important issue when European markets are at their weakest in years. BP has seen it’s shares drop by a third of its value, and Japanese investors have lost nearly 8% off the prices of their shares. But the blame seems to fall on BP once international investors begin examining the facts. Sir Paul McCartney, a well-known musician and proponent of environmental issues, openly lent his support to Obama, asking the press to ‘lay off’. Time will tell if the international community will be as forgiving
In the end, the public’s foremost request to President Obama is a quick solution to the problem: a halt of the oil still leaking into the Gulf, and quick response to the environmental disaster ready to decimate the shorelines and it’s marine inhabitants. Whatever the case, all seem to agree that it’s time to stop pointing fingers. The tide ebbs, the waves flow, and an oil slick of magnanimous proportions is on its way.
Rachel A. Allen is an intern with the WACC and recently graduate with a master’s degree from the College of Charleston.