Letter: Get facts straight on international assistance in the Gulf


The two letters by Dale Gohr and Jim Barber published on July 16 stated that offers by other nations to assist in cleaning up the Gulf oil spill were refused by this Administration. Mr. Barber also questions why the Jones Act hasn't been suspended instead of being used as an excuse to refuse offers of help. Their allegations don't hold up to scrutiny.

According to the State Department & the National Incident Command (NIC), 25 countries and four international organizations have offered help.

The State Department reports that a lot of the foreign help offered was not free aid, but offers to sell equipment to the United States, and per the NIC some offers were declined because "equipment didn't meet requirements or specifications, contingencies placed on the offers proved logistically impractical when compared to other sources or couldn't be met, and - in one instance - the offering country's export laws prohibited the delivery of the assistance."

Since early May, skimmers and equipment from Mexico, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, and recently, Taiwan, have been involved in the oil cleanup. Fifteen foreign flagged ships were participating in the cleanup operation by mid-June, and about 50 offers (some countries made multiple offers) are still under consideration.

So, yes, as the letter writers stated, foreign help has been refused, but unsaid was that offers were also accepted.

As for the Jones Act, the NIC reported that "there has been no case where an offer of foreign assistance has been declined because of the Jones Act."

Further, the NIC has explained that the Jones Act does not apply to skimming operations that are more than three miles offshore. The spill is 50 miles offshore and this is where the majority of skimming by U.S. and foreign-flag vessels has been active.

The determination by the Coast Guard on-scene coordinator on June 16 that the United States doesn't have enough oil skimmers available allows foreign skimming vessels to be deployed within three miles of shore, and the process to waive the Jones Act was also streamlined.

As to the specific question as to why President Obama has not suspended the Jones Act as President Bush did after Katrina, the oil spill's Unified Command has this answer: "A Jones Act waiver was granted during Hurricane Katrina due to the significant disruption in the production and transportation of petroleum and/or refined petroleum products in the region during that emergency and the impact this had on national defense.

The Deepwater Horizon spill has yet to affect infrastructure or oil and gas availability; the damage is environmental, and foreign vessels are approved for delivering resources and conducting offshore skimming."

The response team also stated, "although the Jones Act is currently not applicable, the federal government has taken steps to expedite the waiver process should the oil spill response require a Jones Act wavier for trade and commerce."

The allegation that the President hasn't waived the Jones Act for political reasons is bogus.

Lastly, drilling in deepwater is not a result of environmental and government regulations. A 2001 Forbes article reported that during the nine-year period of 1989-1997, the world's oil companies discovered an estimated 2.4 billion barrels of oil in 44 deepwater fields compared to 1.2 BBO in 175 shallower waters. In this article, the BP CEO stated, "deep water offers the prospect of the largest untapped reserves and the lowest-cost means of extraction."

BP "spent the last decade buying up exclusive drilling rights in the world's most promising deepwater regions, and by 2005 expected to pull 1.3 million barrels of oil and the equivalent in gas a day from fields lying in waters more than 300 meters deep, including offshore Trinidad, the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and similar projects off Brazil and Angola."

Recently, the CEO for Royal Dutch Shell stated, "today it was not possible to satisfy the world's growing energy demands without drilling for oil in deep-water reserves, despite the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico."

Contrary to the letter writer, BP was not drilling in deepwater because of the environmentalists and the government. BP was drilling in deepwater because that's where the oil and profit is.

If the letter writers' comments on the oil spill don't hold up to scrutiny, then what else behind their opinions doesn't hold up? (Mr. Gohr's comment, for example, about the new head of Medicare/Medicaid Services and rationing is a stretch of Dr. Berwick's comments about the rationing in Britain's healthcare system. Left out is Dr. Berwick's opinion that every heath care system rations in some way or other because the demand for health care is greater than the resources available.)

My guess is these writers don't care about all the facts when providing their negative assessment of this administration.

Joe Stack



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