The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has already been deemed one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. The April 20 explosion of BP’s rig that triggered this spill was a disaster in itself, taking 11 lives and injuring 17 other workers. But, after the initial shock of the accident, the bad news from BP just kept coming, which makes Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) recent apology all the more incredible.
BP finally seemed to be feeling some shame for its inability to stop the spill this week, agreeing on Wednesday to pay $20 million into an escrow account to cover costs associated with the cleanup, according to The Washington Post.
But, despite the outrage of the American public over the environmental catastrophe and BP’s seeming lack of urgency to stop the spill, Representative Barton felt the need to apologize to BP on Thursday. Instead of asking the U.K.-based company to take responsibility for its mistakes, as President Obama has done, Rep. Joe Barton appears to think that the government needs to take responsibility for holding the energy giant accountable.
Congressman Barton, who represents the state of Texas, stated “I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,” referring to President Obama’s call on BP to open the escrow account. I have to wonder how he could be ashamed of a U.S. president asking a major corporation to pay for its mistakes.
The spill must be cleaned up, and no one debates that fact. And, if BP does not pay, who will? Every environmental incident has an impact on the local ecosystem, wildlife and industries long after it happens. The site DailyFinance.com reported that the spill has had a massive effect on the Gulf Coast fishing industry in the past two months, driving up the price of fish and seafood because of contamination fears and new prohibitions on fishing in large parts of the Gulf.
The BP spill, though, is not just an incident. According to President Obama’s June 15 speech on the government’s response to the spill, “There’s never been a leak this size at this depth.” Never. And how can we not expect that the creators of the biggest and deepest oil spill in history would not contribute to its cleanup?
If he wanted to bring together the Republican Party over a common cause, or ensure that his corporate contributors give to his next campaign with this apology, Rep. Barton has, in fact, done just the opposite. Whatever his agenda, Rep. Barton has given the Democratic majority a reason to feel vindicated. Immediately after Barton’s speech, commentary was flying from all sides. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that “Barton was taking the side of corporations over the American people,” and tweeted his outrage over the micro-blogging site Twitter, according to the political blog The Hill.
After the last year-and-a-half of financial meltdowns and corporate banker bailouts, the last thing any American wants to hear is that one of their representatives is choosing corporate interests over their own. Perhaps Representative Barton should pay as much attention to the American people and their interests as he does to those of the energy industry giants.
1. The Washington Post: “Rep. Barton under fire after apologizing to BP,” by Aaron Blake. URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/17/AR2010061703756.html?hpid=topnews.
2. The Washington Post: “BP agrees to $20 billion fund for gulf oil spill claims,” by Scott Wilson and Joel Achenbach. URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/16/AR2010061602614.html?sub=AR.
3. CNN: “Transcript: Obama talks about oil spill response.” URL: http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/06/15/transcript.obama.speech/index.html?hpt=C1.
4. The Hill: “Gibbs tweets disbelief at Barton’s apology,” by Michael O’Brien. URL: http://thehill.com/blogs/twitter-room/other-news/103965-gibbs-tweets-disbelief-at-bartons-apology.
5. DailyFinance.com: “For Food Business, BP Oil Spill Is a Recipe for Disaster,” by Bruce Watson. URL: http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/company-news/for-food-business-bp-oil-spill-is-a-recipe-for-disaster/19508084/.