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President Obama's Refusal to Waive Jones Act Hampers BP Oil Spill Cleanup Efforts


For a person who stresses international cooperation and deliberation in matters such as terrorism, climate, trade, and nuclear proliferation, and Israeli-Palestinian affairs, one might wonder what took President Obama so long to ask our foreign allies for assistance with the tragic BP Oil mess in the Gulf.

It is not like the rest of the world is cheering at our apparent inability to contain the worst oil spill disaster in U.S. history. Instead, the disaster has the world more than worried, especially Britain:

Believe it or not, the United States lacks many of the key oil related technology that other nations possess. Case in point-- A Belgian group, DEME, contends it can clean up the oil in three to four months with specialty vessel and equipment, rather than an estimated nine months if done only by the U.S. Moreover, according to BP Oil LeakForeign Policy, thirteen countries/organizations had offered the U.S. oil spill assistance within about two weeks of the Horizon rig explosion. They were the governments of Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations.

A lot of these countries are world leaders in the oil industry. You'd think they might have some valuable expertise and state of the art gear to lend the U.S. in its hour of need. Nope.

"We'll let BP decide on what expertise they do need," State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid told reporters on May 19. "We are keeping an eye on what supplies we do need. And as we see that our supplies are running low, it may be at that point in time to accept offers from particular governments."

The time is now.

Finally in late May and again last week, after some delay, the Obama Administration has asked for assistance from Mexico, Norway, the Netherlands, and Canada.

What took so long?

Many, including the Administration, claim that the Jones Act is slowing foreign aid. The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is a United States Federal statute that regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. Section 27, also known as the Jones Act, deals with coastal shipping; and requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents. The Jones Act helps protect American shipping interests; however, now, the Jones Act may be preventing the rest of the world from helping the U.S. clean up the BP oil spill with state of the art technology.

If the Obama administration wasn’t previously aware of the effect the Jones Act is having on the disaster, chances are it is now. So, if this Act is impeding international efforts, why hasn’t Obama waived the Act, like President Bush did after Hurricane Katrina?

Instead of talking about passing a law that amplifies BP oil spill liabilities, perhaps a simple executive order suspending the Jones Act would be more productive. An Executive Order signed by Obama could waive the Jones Act in about 3 minutes, even less time it would take him to fill out an NCAA Final Four bracket.

Yet, Obama has refused to waive the Jones Act. His Administration keeps putting the blame on the Coast Guard who puts the blame on others for not requesting the Jones Act be waived. Boy, talk about a classic case of government inefficiency. While the Administration strangles itself in the red tape of bureaucracy, the Gulf Coast dies more and more each day.

The Jones Act is heavily backed by labor unions. Could that be Obama’s reasoning? Maybe Obama doesn’t want to alienate unions that enjoy the economic protection that the Jones Act offers. There’s no other reason that one could possibly think of as to why Obama has not waived the Jones Act.

C’mon, Mr. President. You promised to be a “global leader”. Do whatever it takes to bring in help from around the world.