Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Flashback: Jindal Tells How He Grew Up with Oil Industry and that Threat to Environment is Balanced in Louisiana

Earlier today I wrote that our Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and our Republican Sen. David Vitter are playing a great game of Good Cop-Bad Cop during this oil crisis. But, you know, just in case anyone thinks I've pulled Jindal's love of the oil industry out of thin air, I am posting his 2005 statement in support of offshore drilling and his faith that we could drill and protect the environment as well.

He delivered this speech when he was a lowly congressman. It comes from the government publication "The benefits of offshore oil and gas development : oversight field hearing before the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources of the Committee on Resources, U.S. House of Representatives, One Hundred Ninth Congress, first session, Saturday, August 13, 2005, in Port Fourchon, Louisiana."

I'm fed up with Jindal scoring political points during this crisis given his pro-offshore oil drilling position and objection even to other regulations that protect the environment, such as global warming pollution regulations. While we watch him on the news daily, there's talk of his great crisis management skills and how presidential he looks, but let's not forget that Jindal is also shortsighted.

Gov. Jindal is a man consistently unable to see that deregulation and privatization is problematic. He may not be as dimwitted as Sarah Palin, but he is as myopic when it comes to drilling for oil.

Please see the date of the speech, August 13, 2005, two weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit, during the Bush years. Jindal acknowledges in the speech concerns about the possibility the levees could not withstand a level 4 hurricane, and he mentions threats to the barrier islands, but he obviously thinks the dangers of not drilling outweigh losing the marsh. So, it's fitting that his old speech should surface at the beginning of a hurricane season approaching the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina as scientists speculate what could happen to Louisiana if a hurricane slips on this oil slick.

Jindal shared with the subcommittee that he comes from a family of engineers and the importance of Louisiana keeping petrochemical jobs.
My family--I was born and raised down here. My family has grown up in this industry. The reason we have jobs in my family is because there is an oil and gas industry. My wife is an engineer, my father is an engineer, my father-in-law is an engineer, my wife's uncles are all engineers. I was kind of the disappointment in the family. I couldn't be an engineer, so I went to Congress instead.

But I want to make four quick points not only for the record but for my colleagues here. First is that Louisiana is proud to do more than its share to secure our nation's energy demands. We, as everybody in this room knows, we provide 25 to 30 percent of the nation's energy, 18 to 20 percent comes through this port alone. For decades we have done more than our share to make sure we have a domestic source of energy.

Congress has just passed an energy bill reaffirming our commitment to becoming energy independent over the next 25 years. We've got within North America reserves to do that. It will develop the technology and it will develop those fields. I don't think any of us needs a reminder of how dangerous it is for us to become overly dependent on foreign sources of energy. We have seen what that can do to our economy. We can see now, in an international competitive economy, we can see what that does for our dollar. We are now increasingly fighting China and other countries for limited energy resources. (Jindal in 2005)
One of the things the energy bill he references, Energy Policy Act of 2005, did was "authorize the Department of the Interior to grant leases for activity that involves the production, transportation or transmission of energy on Outer Continental Shelf lands from sources other than gas and oil."

Jindal continued, saying he was "thrilled" to get more money for Louisiana oil production from the federal government, and that he believes we know how to produce oil and protect the environment. It's not a case of either/or down here. It's both, Jindal declared.

Apparently, then-congressman Jindal did not grasp how much damage an oil leak like the one we have in the Gulf of Mexico now could do. Like other conservatives, such as Libertarian Rand Paul, who say "accidents happen," Jindal believed the quest for oil was worth the risk to the environment, and he was very much for mega-oil companies bringing money to the state while the federal government bears the responsibility to protect the coastline.

You see how promoting states rights works. If we're talking something like pro-choice, gay marriage, or race matters, it's states rights all the way. The states will take care of their own business. If we're talking cleaning up the coast after state leaders lobby for offshore drilling, then it's states take the money, but let the feds take care of the mess while the states weep and kvetch. The same must go for being anti-anything-that-smacks-of-socialism but pro-federal-government-holding-businesses'-coats when disaster strikes. Maybe filmmaker Michael Moore is right: American politicians aren't having a love affair with democracy but with capitalism.

As Jindal might say, don't get me wrong here. I agree that if we're going to keep drilling for oil in Louisiana, then the state deserves whatever money that should come to it from oil. We've been shafted in the past on our oil deals. However, unlike Jindal and some conservatives, I think offshore drilling is too big a risk. I lean toward what Bob Herbert said in an op ed at the New York Times:
If an oil well is too far beneath the sea to be plugged when something goes wrong, it’s too deep to be drilled in the first place.
We need to know when to set aside old ways of thinking and focus on developing alternative sources of energy. Fossil fuel is finite.

Before Jindal gets to his more eloquent rhetoric in his speech regarding balancing offshore drilling with restoring our wetlands, however, and after he thanks the MMS (Minerals Management Service) for showing him, Chevron, and others bon temps, Jindal uses a story about his daughter, then three years old, to explain how most people don't know from where our energy comes. We ordinary citizens and anti-drill activists just don't get that we have to drill in the ocean, I suppose.

Update: But Jindal does have good southern manners. Today he's in the media again thanking the White House for approving his plan to build sand berms to stop oil from getting in the marshlands.
Jindal called on BP and the federal government Tuesday to pay for his ambitious plan to build sand berms on the state's barrier islands to catch the oil offshore and keep it from getting to sensitive inland marshes.

Until Wednesday, the Coast Guard had only approve one segment of the six the governor had requested. Jindal said as it stands, the state now has permission to proceed with about 40 miles of sand barriers.

"I want to thank the White House. Certainly, it's a step forward," Jindal said. "We would have preferred it came through weeks ago, we would have preferred they approved the whole plan. But today is a step forward.

"Now I'm calling on BP, and I'm calling on the federal government: Help us to make sure BP is a responsible party. Thank you for approving our entire six segments, but now I'm calling on you, don't let it be an approval on paper alone."
A Palin supporter on Twitter informed me of the news with the quip that Obama was "44 days too late" in approving the plan. To that I say why should anyone have automatically believed Jindal knew what he was talking about with this plan? He did, after all, think no serious harm could come from offshore drilling and as Len Bahr, the blogger at LACOASTPOST, writes:
... the governor wants massive federal help to restore our sinking coast but vehemently objects to even modest federal restrictions on the petrochemical operations that are critical to the state economy but that have long contributed to coastal deterioration.
Bahr, who is retired, served in the Louisiana Governor's Office of Coastal Affairs under five governors. He was director of the Governor's Applied Coastal Science program. (PDF)

Would we be where we are with a leak in the Gulf of Mexico if conservatives hadn't pushed so hard for support of offshore drilling while also opposing regulation of the oil industry?

I'm glad Obama approved Jindal's sandberm plan (if it will work, and assumptions that it will are questionable). As I wrote yesterday, we're effed with this oil spill, but the president needs to put on a show. Nevertheless, at worst, Obama could be accused of moving slowly to levy all the federal government's resources in cleaning up the oil and being a push-over on compromise with conservatives on environmental issues. He's buckled to pressure to accept offshore drilling, but it would be a stretch to pin the legacy of coddling big oil on him. He is not a card-carrying member of the "Drill, Baby, Drill!" gang. Bending over for big oil is more a Republican thang.


Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

Whew! Great article, and your research is excellent.

About Jindal: I wonder if he's still a disappointment to his family.

Energy Audit said...

Oil industry is a threat to many oil spills are taking place which adversely effects the environment.

Anonymous said...

Oil spills are always going to be a threat to the environment. It is important that we understand this and try to move on to something less threatening. There are so many alternate energy sources in the midst of production, we just need to stand behind them. For more information about going green or building a career in green energy check out