Misjudged Situation: Today's Outrage - TheStreet

Misjudged Situation: Today's Outrage

The judge who ruled against the drilling moratorium suffers from a conflict of interest and a lapse of reason.
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BOSTON (TheStreet) -- If nothing else, New Orleans Judge Martin Feldman has provided a new villain to root against as BP's (BP) - Get Report environmental disaster gushes into the record books.

Yesterday, the federal judge -- who is increasingly proving unworthy to don a Snuggie, much less the judicial robe of his station -- ruled against a six-month moratorium on offshore oil drilling that was ordered by the Obama administration.

Among the insights offered by Feldman in his ruling: "If some drilling-equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are? Are all airplanes a danger because one was? All oil tankers like Exxon Valdez? All trains? All mines? That sort of thinking seems heavy-handed, and rather overbearing."

Good point, your honor. It would be like, for instance, thinking all judges are contemptible because one ruled on a matter in which he had a direct conflict of interest. Like, for instance, Feldman, who, according to the Associated Press, had previously disclosed owning nearly $15,000 in stock in

Transocean

(RIG) - Get Report

, the company that owned the collapsed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

Aside from the ethical lapse that comes from Feldman's failure to recuse himself, it would take a childish, superficial feat of reasoning to defend his ruling. But that hasn't stopped some of the "drill, baby, drill" set from doing just that. To dumb down an already dumb logic: Just because someone gets hit by a car, you don't outlaw all cars.

The reality is that, despite Feldman's claims to the contrary, all airplanes are dangerous, all trains can derail, all oil tankers can run aground. Just because bad things don't happen more frequently, it doesn't mean they can't. The unsinkable Titanic sank. The safety record of the Hindenburg went up in flames.

Toyota's

(TM) - Get Report

reputation sped away with stuck accelerators. Nature found a way to unleash velociraptors in

Jurassic Park

.

Oil rigs are complex feats of engineering, a collective of specialized technology. Minor glitches and major malfunctions aren't a worst-case scenario; they're a mathematical probability. Blind faith in technology is a recipe for disaster, and a lack of contingency plans guarantees disaster.

None of this means we need to dismiss domestic drilling out of hand. It does mean that risk needs to be balanced with reward. Is it worth the threat of an ecological disaster to lower foreign fuel dependence and keep pump prices below $5 a gallon? That's a question that can, and should, be debated.

President Obama should, indeed, suffer the smackdown that Feldman incompetently tried to administer. He drank freely of the Kool-Aid proffered by the pro-drilling voices. When it blew up in his face, he made the knee-jerk order for a moratorium, a pause button that had little in the way of a solid plan to tighten regulations and improve inspections.

But to overrule even this too-little, too-late plan of attack, Feldman revealed himself to be a lackey for oil interests and more concerned about his own portfolio than the livelihood of a region that will suffer for decades to come.

-- Reported by Joe Mont in Boston.

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