We need all the international help we can get to clean-up the Gulf of Mexico, but an Associated Press account seems to gripe that the help is not free.
After almost two months of delay, the U.S. last week agreed that foreign oil spill response vessels (but not other foreign ships) can join the effort. Our official government finding says, “there are an insufficient number of specialized oil skimming vessels in the U.S. to keep pace with the unprecedented levels of oil discharges in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Rather than analyzing why we took so long to allow foreign help, the AP issued a story that it headlined, “Cleanup Aid from Overseas Comes with a Price Tag,” bemoaning that the helpers expect to be paid.
Of course they do. So do the army of American workers, boat owners, and relief vessels working in the Gulf. And, as President Obama loves to remind us, “BP will pay.”
Most of the at-long-last-permitted help comes from privately-owned vessels that previously could not be hired due to our restrictions—even though their capabilities often exceed what American-flagged vessels can accomplish. (Their capacity to collect oil is up to ten times greater than the ships we have been using.)
But to the AP, the key points were these:
“The State Department confirmed that nearly every offer of equipment or expertise from a foreign government since the April 20 oil rig explosion would require the U.S. to reimburse that country.
“The offers reveal a hard truth about the United States’ international friendships: With the U.S. widely regarded as the world’s wealthiest nation, there is a double standard regarding foreign aid after a crisis, especially with offers from relatively poor countries.
“U.S. disaster aid is almost always free of charge; other nations expect the U.S. to pay for help.”
Perhaps the Associated Press reporters are so deficit-conscious that they focused on the costs rather than the necessity for international help. But their story never mentioned that the cost would be passed on to BP, not borne directly by taxpayers. Or perhaps they wanted to make the Administration’s inexcusable delay appear to be an act of prudence, rather than as irresponsibility—which it was.
But despite allowing the specialized OSRV ships (“oil spill recovery vessels”), the Obama Administration has not granted any Jones Act waivers to allow other foreign help. They should do so.