Now heading to the Florida Gulf Coast waters is a foreign ship that can skim oil, so much oil that it will be the workhorse that can replace the efforts of hundreds of small skimmer boats in a matter of days. But that big workhorse may remain undeployed.
Why? It is a ship of foreign registry.
President Obama still stubbornly refuses to waive the Jones Act. Actually the Jones Act is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, deriving its name from its sponsor, Senator Wesley Jones, a Republican from Washington State. The hang up in the Jones Act is a provision which allows only American built and registered ships, carrying a crew of at least 75-percent Americans, to carry goods or services from one U. S. port to another.
Had Obama waived the Jones Act in the first days after the BP spill, to enlist offers of skimmer ships and other assistance from more than two-dozen nations, oil would probably not have reached the fragile coastal wetlands of South Louisiana, let alone the pristine beaches of the Gulf Coast.
As the winds whip up in the Gulf and wide strips of thick oil now snake toward Florida beaches and a current that could steer oil north into the Atlantic, congressional members from Florida, some of them Democrats, have hastily writtern letters appealing for a waiver. Some have introduced legislation. Nancy Pelosi has bottled up the bills, and the White House appears to have deep-sixed the letters.
Even worse, we have learned in recent days, skimmers on stand-by near other oil producing areas of the U. S. remain at their stations, idle.
Why? The coast guard reasons it would be unwise to move those ships to help in the Gulf in case of a spill in their station area, even though this is the first major oil spill from an off-shore rig since the big Mexican spill in 1979. If my calculator is correct, that's 31 years ago. What are the odds?
Whatever the reason - to pander to organized labor as charged by many White House critics or out of sheer stubbornness or stupidity - no Jones Act waiver has been forthcoming and the stand-by skimmers stand idle. The vital fishing and fish spawning areas of Louisiana are lost, along with the Louisiana fishing industry. Some predict for at least a decade; maybe a generation.
How sad for that Louisiana way of life; how sad for America.
Nero fiddled. Obama orates. And the oil keeps gushing.