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Commentary: Where's oil expert Dick Cheney when we need him?

The days turned into weeks and the weeks will turn into months before a gushing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico will be capped permanently.

Thousands of government and civilian workers are deployed on land and sea to try to contain the spill that is staining the coastlines of several states, endangering marine life and threatening the livelihoods of thousands of people along the Gulf shores.

Local politicians, average people and even a couple of folks from the movie industry, all frustrated by this enormous environmental catastrophe, are offering ideas for not only how to stop the oil flow, but how to capture the millions of barrels that have spewed into the water from a mile beneath the surface.

The president made his fourth visit to the Gulf Coast this week, promising to hold BP accountable for cleaning up the spill and compensating those whose businesses have been harmed.

But of all the people seen and heard regarding the disaster, one person is conspicuously absent and notably quiet.

Has anyone seen Dick Cheney?

Where has the former vice president been these last two months? After all, his No. 1 goal when entering office in 2001 was to fashion a new energy policy for the nation, remember?

So where is the man who, during the first month after being sworn in, was having private White House meetings with oil company executives? Could he be in one of those undisclosed locations?

Last year and earlier this year, Cheney didn't hesitate to speak out about President Barack Obama's handling of the "war on terrorism," suggesting that the man who succeeded George W. Bush had made us "less safe."

Surely this energy expert can offer suggestions on how to "plug the hole." After all, he was head of Halliburton, one of the largest oilfield services companies in the world. And that company was doing work on the BP well that exploded and collapsed into the Gulf, creating heartbreaking calamity.

It's strange we haven't heard a peep out of him on this one.

Many feel his administration's coziness with the oil and energy companies led to lax regulations and very well may have contributed to this environmental disaster. I certainly hold that view.

As the president made his way to the Gulf Coast on Monday, he sent an e-mail message to supporters asking them to stand with him as he pushes legislation "to promote a new economy powered by green jobs, combat climate change and end our dependence on foreign oil."

He pointed out that last week that he met with leaders of both parties in Congress to talk about the legislation.

"Today, we consume more than 20 percent of the world's oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world's oil reserves," Obama said. "Beyond the risks inherent in drilling four miles beneath the surface of the Earth, our dependence on oil means that we will continue to send billions of dollars of our hard-earned wealth to other countries every month — including many in dangerous, unstable regions.

"In other words, our continued dependence on fossil fuels will jeopardize our national security. It will smother our planet. And it will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk. We cannot delay any longer, and that is why I'm asking for your help."

A comprehensive energy and climate bill has passed the House, and a bipartisan plan has been introduced in the Senate.

The president is right in saying we can't afford to delay these new policies while we wait for another disaster to happen.

Just as we have to clean up the mess in the Gulf, we also have to clean up the mess in Washington that for years — thanks to people like Dick Cheney — basically allowed big energy companies to make their own rules.


Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may write to him at: 400 W. 7th Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102, or via e-mail at