Enduring criticism from partisans of every stripe for his response to the accidental gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Obama managed last night to convey that he’s deeply upset about the disaster and angry at BP. And this being a crisis, he naturally took the opportunity to put his moribund climate legislation back in play.
He promised to throw a new and improved bureaucracy at the disaster. And at BP, he threw what is an unprecedented and possibly illegal exercise in presidential authority.
As expected, Mr. Obama announced his intention to pressure BP into establishing an escrow fund to cover future payouts related to the Gulf spill. While Congressional Democrats have already suggested that BP bring the fund to life with a $20 billion deposit, Mr. Obama daintily avoided the issue of how many tens of billions the British company should pony up.
Tellingly, Mr. Obama declined to cite any legal authority for the escrow fund, about which he plans to “inform” BP CEO Tony Hayward tomorrow. We don’t believe the President has the power to force a corporation to set aside money for future, undetermined and open-ended obligations. It is a precedent fraught with potential for abuse.
Most of the Oval Office oil talk was given over to resurrecting Mr. Obama’s green agenda and, as before, the arguments were slippery. He blamed deep-water drilling on the scarcity of oil when he has blocked drilling in Alaska and in shallow water along both coasts. His moratorium on drilling makes us more dependent on the very foreign imports he deplored last night.