Let's make a deal: Oil drilling for national wind insurance
Michael Mayo | News Columnist
June 19, 2008
So, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and John McCain want to allow drilling for oil and gas off Florida's coastline.
I don't know if the idea makes any sense. All I know is this: If we control access to something the rest of the country wants, we should be darn sure we get something good in return.
I'm thinking national hurricane insurance is a start.
For the last few years, federal lawmakers have blocked creating a national catastrophe fund similar to national flood insurance for high-threat hurricane areas like Florida. People in other parts of the country have balked at subsidizing our hurricane risks after private insurers fled.
Well, if President Bush, McCain, Crist and the oil companies want to put our coastline and tourist industry at risk for the good of the nation's energy thirst, then maybe it's time the rest of the country chips in to help our insurance crisis.
And maybe the feds could cough up some more money for Everglades restoration.
And maybe buy us a few more voting machines that actually work.
Sounds fair enough, right?
Not that I'm sold on the drill-happy talk suddenly making the rounds, first by presumptive Republican presidential nominee McCain and Crist on Tuesday, then by President Bush on Wednesday.
The cynic in me sees this as pure political opportunism: A chance for Crist to ingratiate himself with McCain in the vice-presidential sweepstakes, and a chance for McCain and Bush to paint Democrats as $4-a-gallon loving obstructionists.
The snarky side of me contemplates a rig off every beach and says, "Bring 'em on." With most of the drilling and potential degradation poised for the Panhandle and Gulf Coast, maybe their tourist loss could be South Florida's gain.
Finally, the logical side of me wonders why we're seriously contemplating this, since it mostly seems hot air and window dressing.
Consider a 2007 report from the federal government's Energy Information Administration, which noted new offshore drilling "would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030."
Environmentalists and other opponents say oil companies aren't drilling in many offshore areas where they have drilling rights, so they don't understand the need for expansion.
"There's no evidence this will bring down prices," said Holly Binns, field director for Environment Florida, a Tallahassee-based advocacy group opposed to offshore drilling.
Even with advances in drilling equipment and technology, Binns said "every drilling rig is permitted to dump 90,000 pounds of toxic drilling mud into the water." She said drilling infrastructure, such as pipelines and refineries, could industrialize Florida's coastal landscape.
And she said drilling could lead to tar balls washing ashore, mercury levels rising in water and fish and the potential for a catastrophic spill during a hurricane.
Beyond the typical environmental alarmism, I have more practical concerns. Like how do we know the stuff that gets pumped here will end up in the United States? Given the increasing worldwide demand for oil, will there be any restrictions preventing energy companies from selling our coastal oil to the highest bidder in China or India?
Of course, drilling for oil closer to home is just a temporary solution to a much bigger problem. America reminds me of a junkie looking for his next fix, turning over every pillow on every couch in search of a packet of heroin, or, in this case, oil.
We really should have tried to kick the habit years ago. But the entrenched powers (oil companies, automakers and their government enablers) didn't want things to change. And now that we must change, we're caught flat-footed as we scramble to develop alternatives.
Meantime, it's onto the next vein. Florida, that's us.
The best we could hope for is something big in return.
Let's make a deal: Oil drilling for national wind insurance -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com