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Thursday, July 8, 2010 01:40 am

The GOP’s genetic link to big oil

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U.S. Rep. Joe Barton
PHOTO BY CHUCK KENNEDY/MCT

If scientists were to compare the DNA of Republican congress-critters and of oil corporations, I’ll bet they’d find that they match perfectly. After all, the two species have identical political instincts and seem to have a natural affinity for each other – so I’m pretty sure they sprang from the same genetic pool.

 How else can you explain the remarkable gusher of compassion that Republican lawmakers are presently directing toward Big Oil in general and BP in particular? For example, only hours after winning his party’s nomination for a Kentucky Senate seat, GOP teabag darling Rand Paul was on national TV decrying Barack Obama as “un-American” for daring to demand that BP be held accountable for its human and ecological destruction in the Gulf of Mexico.

 Next came Minnesota’s Lioness of Loopiness, Michelle Bachmann, implying that the hard-hit people of the gulf are shiftless moochers who’re using the oil disaster to grab corporate cash. Brimming with tears of compassion, the kooky congresswoman wailed that, “(BP) shouldn’t have to be fleeced and made chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest.”

 And who can ever forget the astonishing public apology to BP’s CEO by the oil-soaked Texas Republican Joe Barton? After Obama had gotten agreement from BP to set aside $20 billion to cover some of the damages it has caused, Barton called Obama’s actions a presidential “shakedown.” He asserted that it made him “ashamed” to live in America, and he obsequiously begged forgiveness from the reckless CEO whose faulty wells killed 11 American workers and continues to do inestimable economic and ecological harm.

Speaking of ecological harm, nature needs us to focus. All of us who love polar bears, whales, seabirds and other wildlife should put our minds together to send an urgent telepathic message to the animals in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. Our message is blunt: Flee! Flee as fast as you can! Flee, because BP is coming!

While our public attention has been riveted on BP’s disastrous blowout in the Gulf, the British oil giant has been quietly and quickly drilling another risky offshore well three miles off of Alaska’s north coast.

Dubbed “Liberty,” this project requires a technique called “extended reach,” which is even more prone to explosions than the Gulf process. First, BP is drilling down two miles under the Beaufort Sea, drilling sideways for up to eight miles to tap into one of our national oil reserves.

But wait – didn’t Obama impose a moratorium on such offshore drilling? Yes ... but: When Liberty was planned in the George W. Bush years, it was magically declared by his Republican devil-may-care regulators to be an “onshore project.” How can that be? Because the rig sits on a tiny artificial island that BP built, so – voila! – it’s “onshore” even though it’s three miles offshore.

Also, just as in the Gulf, industry-cozy regulators let BP write its own environmental impact statements for Liberty. And – guess what? – BP’s 2007 statement said BP would cause no environmental problems. A-OK, said the winking regulators, as they rubber-stamped the project. And what about a disaster response plan, just in case, you know, something bad does happen? Not to worry, BP assured everyone, because the likelihood of a blowout is very remote. Didn’t we hear that about BP’s Deepwater Horizon well, too?

Meanwhile, as another oil giant drills away in the Beaufort Sea, GOP lawmakers are dutifully working in Congress to limit the legal liability of BP and its partners to a paltry $75 million each. For Republicans to continue marching in lockstep with Big Oil, despite public outrage at BP’s greed, makes no sense at all. But they can’t help it – their knee-jerk response is genetically programmed. They might even have oil in their DNA.

So, here we go again, putting Mother Nature at the mercy of insatiable oil profiteers. To learn more about BP’s Liberty escapade, and to learn what you can do besides warning the sea animals to flee, call the Center for Biological Diversity in Alaska: 907-274-1110.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.

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