Earlier this month, while the 24 hour news beast was busy with other stories, we learned that the President’s drilling commission had finished its investigative duties and published a 398 page report on last year’s Gulf oil spill. In it, we were told, we would learn the root causes for the failure, who was to blame and what should be done next. Sadly, in true bureaucratic fashion, the fruits of their labors seem to be a lot of smoke and very little in the way of actual fire. As this Investors Business Daily editorial points out, the commission’s report is short on answers but very long on blame.

A commission appointed to investigate BP’s well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and recommend ways to drill safely has labored mightily and produced the functional equivalent of a tar ball.

The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling cites the “incredible incompetence” of British Petroleum and its upper management in at least nine specific decisions. Then it unjustifiably extrapolates BP’s errors to the entire oil industry, whose safety record is ignored.

It mattered not that between 1969 and 2009 oil companies drilled more than 50,000 offshore wells without a serious mishap. Brazil, Britain, Norway and others drill safely offshore. No major spills were recorded when hurricanes Katrina and Rita roared through some 3,050 offshore oil and gas platforms operating in the Gulf.

Besides blaming an entire industry with an impeccable safety record for BP’s failure, the commission also ignores the failure of federal oversight or advance preparation for such a spill and recommends the creation of another entirely new federal agency to oversee all offshore oil and gas drilling.

An analysis from the Wall Street Journal didn’t look on the report any more favorably. They note that the commission goes to great lengths to point out a number of things they don’t know about what caused the accident – beyond simple human error in the hours leading up to the event – but then go on to essentially blame the entire industry for what may or may not be the root cause of the problem.

Having a group of government busybodies produce a pile of essentially worthless paper is nothing unusual in Washington, DC. But this particular one is having a very real and chilling effect on both jobs and energy independence.

Since the Gulf drilling moratorium allegedly ended three months ago, only two new drilling permits have been issued, the Heritage Foundation reports, adding that new drilling permits are down 88% from their historical average. Even shallow-water permits, supposedly unaffected by the moratorium, are down 11%.

The Energy Information Administration said last month that offshore oil production in 2011 would decline 13% from 2010 due to the effects of the moratorium and the snail’s-pace permitting process. That’s about 220,000 fewer barrels of oil per day.

I seem to recall something about the Obama administration “getting the message” after the last election, and about the president’s readiness to focus in like a laser on jobs and the economy. Well, this report is being used as cover in slowing the permit process down to a snail’s pace, while jobs and a huge economic shot in the arm sail off to other parts of the world along with the oil rigs which are being moved away. (A process which has been going on since last summer.)

If the permit process isn’t brought back up to speed soon the real toll in jobs and economic stagnation will continue to mount. And once a rig is moved off to Brazil and put to work, there is little incentive for the company to move it back to U.S. waters. In the midst of a crisis, a real leader leads, and this situation won’t stay on the back burner for long. It’s time for congress to get the president’s attention back on this issue.