In its lead editorial yesterday, The Wall Street Journal pointed out the lack of scientific and engineering expertise of President Obama’s appointments to the seven-member “National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling,” as well as the obvious biases of a majority of its members who have either stated publicly their opposition to drilling or are members of organizations that oppose offshore drilling. There is only one member with any engineering background at all, although her specialties are physics and optics.
Of course, it is hard to see how an expertise in optics is relevant to the complex engineering of oil exploration and drilling in the deep ocean, although the President has certainly shown an extraordinary obsession with the political optics of his administration’s handling of this environmental and economic disaster. The Commission is chaired by former Democratic Senator Bob Graham, “who fought drilling off Florida throughout his career.” His co-chairman is Republican William Reilly, the former president and chairman of the World Wildlife Fund, which brags on its website that “WWF helped to lead the successful effort to secure a moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in the Arctic.”
It is not too difficult to predict what the Commission’s recommendations will be on, as the White House press release on the formation of the Commission said, “how we can prevent – and mitigate the impact of – any future spills that result from offshore drilling.” Does anyone expect this Commission to recommend anything other than either a permanent ban on offshore drilling or onerous regulations so burdensome and expensive that they will achieve the equivalent of a ban?
As we reported yesterday in The Foundry, a federal court in Louisiana overturned the Obama administration’s six-month blanket moratorium on all deep-water drilling. There is one interesting fact about that case that is relevant to The Wall Street Journal editorial about the biases of the members of the Commission. One of the individuals President Obama appointed is Frances G. Beinecke, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a very liberal environmental advocacy organization. Beinecke has called for bans on offshore drilling on numerous occasions. But he has not just talked about such a ban – the NRDC actually intervened as a defendant in this lawsuit, arguing in favor of the drilling moratorium.
Beinecke has a glaring conflict of interest that prevents him from serving on this Commission with any level of objectivity, yet I have no doubt that the administration will ignore that conflict. He will continue to serve on the Commission so that the President and his radical environmental allies can guarantee the results they want from the Commission just like the Queen of Hearts told Alice: sentence first – verdict afterwards.