Now, you might be thinking: 'I understand that Republicans don't want to give Democrats a victory, but everyone is in favor of preventing another BP oil spill, so how can they possibly defend themselves on this position?' Indeed, it's the oil spill liability cap provision that Republicans are adamantly opposing.
Crafted by Senator Menendez, that provision would eliminate the $75 million liability cap altogether, forcing oil companies to actually take into account the full risk of the dangerous and potentially catastrophic operations that they undertake. To me, this makes perfect sense. Why should government assume any of the liability of corporations whose sole motive is profit, not protecting and serving people? Oil companies should be held entirely accountable for the risks they take, just like financial giants should be held accountable for the risks they take. This will help eliminate some of the riskiest, most dangerous practices—the ones that, say, cause environmental and economic disasters in the Gulf of Mexico, or cripple the world economy.
Republicans say no. Their reasons:
- We weren't given enough time to review the merits of either (the Democratic or the Republican oil) bill. This is a valid argument...usually. But it's also the same argument they gave for why they wouldn't move forward on the climate bill, and that had been circling the halls of Congress in one form or another for over a year.
- Lifting the liability cap will hurt oil companies, and disincentivize them from drilling for more deepwater oil. If your view of capitalism is that companies should be able to take whatever measures they want, no matter the risk, in order to reap as much profit as possible, then this is true. Oil companies will be "harmed" if they are given the proper market signals telling them to mitigate the risk of their operations. But a liability cap inherently rejects the externalities and consequences of risky behavior, leaving U.S. citizens in the affected areas and the local environment to suffer horrendously.
Images: Majority Leader Reid (treehugger)