Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another assault on Florida?

There’s a move afoot in the Florida Legislature to lift the state’s ban on oil and gas exploration off Florida’s coast.

They never relent. They try again, and again, and again.

The "drill, baby, drill" philosophy is here again, a troubling affirmation of the never-ending purpose of the same old people and corporations to place their own monetary interest above all other values, such as the protection of nature, environment, our beaches, our coastline, our water, our health.

The hypocrisy of "drilling in an environmentally safe fashion" is flagrant. Everybody knows the results of offshore exploration, oil rigs, and spills

They keep insisting: "one more time,… just for a few years… till we put in place renewable energy, bla, bla, bla.

You don’t fool me, fellas. It's not about public interest. It's about lining your pockets.

They claim that they are investing in clean and renewable energy. But the percentage of these investments are minuscule, when compared to those dedicated to traditional oil and coal explorations.

So they say: let's forget the $ 150/a barrel prices. Just lay back, relax; everything will be fine and let the big boys take care of business. They know what they're doing.

Sure. The same way their colleagues and good friends at GM and Chrysler knew better and kept producing their gas-guzzlers for decades.

Do I think it's outrageous that they try to pull out this fast one on us? Hell yes.

Do I think that all their "statistics" about voters' supporting offshore drilling are fake and non-relevant? You bet.

The same considerations that have kept them from destroying our coast for 30 years have not changed today. Enough of our coral reefs are ailing or have been destroyed, and enough of our water is polluted enough to endanger ocean life; too many of our marine species are on the brink of extinction.

I have read too many articles published by the most qualified world-wide researchers , about how the critical damage caused by the abuse of our oceans and rivers is almost irreversible.

Don't tell me about "creating jobs" and "boosting the economy" and "generating revenues". Not when thousands and millions of our best jobs continue to be outsourced , without any relief in sight for the growing number of unemployed kids, while our authorities don’t seem to have a clue on how to stop this disaster.

We all know how tourism is one of the largest revenue-generator in Florida. Let's not forget how we could all be affected by this new threat.

The claim of additional revenue of about 1.5 billion, is nothing compared to the tourism revenue that we would be putting at risk.

I have seen so many times the tar-soiled sands in other beaches or the world, that the vision of this nightmare on our coastline makes me sick.

As a realtor, in addition to my personal love for Florida, I have to add my personal interest as a professional. I wouldn't like to sell the spoils of our nature to my clients. When I sell real estate here, I also sell the sun, the breeze, the water, the ocean, the fish and the blue marlin, and the Everglades. It is as much my own interest, as it is the public interest to preserve it for us, our kids, and grandchildren… and anybody who comes to visit.

And, my friends: don't you think that the time has come to get serious about renewable and clean energy? It is not something that we can afford to delay.

This is what I read in the South Florida Business Journal - April 21, 2009

Lawmaker pushes for offshore energy exploration

by Paul Brinkmann and Susan R. Miller

There’s a move afoot in the Florida Legislature to lift the state’s ban on oil and gas exploration off Florida’s coast.

It’s a proposal that proponents say would provide the state with the economic stimulus it so badly needs, but one that environmentalists fear could wreck havoc on the state’s tourism industry and beaches.

Florida’s speaker-designate, state Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, on Tuesday unveiled the late-session proposal that would give the governor and Cabinet the power to consider applications to conduct offshore energy exploration.

With less than two weeks left in the session, the House Policy Council passed the bill Tuesday on a 17-7 vote. However, a similar measure has been stalled in the Florida Senate.

If passed by the legislature, the bill would result in the reversal of a ban on such drilling that’s been in place for three decades.

Environmental groups, including the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Audubon Society, vehemently oppose the plan and question Cannon’s motives of introducing it late in the session.

“A decision of this magnitude warrants robust discussion both legislative and public and the idea that it can be added to a bill at the last minute is troubling,” said Julie Wraithmell, wildlife policy coordinator for Audubon of Florida.

She said the fear is not only about a catastrophic spill, but the potential for the smaller, day-to-day leaks that can occur in transportation from rigs and through pipelines.

But, at least one business organization is backing the bill.

“Florida’s families and businesses are facing unprecedented economic challenges, and the potential for significant, new public revenues from oil and gas are immense,” said Barney Bishop III, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida (AIF). “I am confident that we can do this in a way that will protect our environment and our precious coastline, which is such a critical natural resource for our state.”

Bishop called the new drilling initiative an opportunity, but added it is not a guarantee that drilling will occur.

“It’s been our politicians that are pandering to other interests that have been against this,” he said. “As much as we all want to move in a green direction of renewable energy and nuclear, the truth is we’re all going to have to rely on fossil fuels for the next generation, at a minimum.”

Proponents argue that oil and gas leases could generate billions of dollars in new annual revenue – without raising new taxes.

AIF presented information about Cuba’s recent oil discoveries, and the revenue that neighboring states receive from oil operations. Florida’s waters don’t have nearly the amount of known oil deposits that Texas and Louisiana claim, but there are two known oil fields with millions of barrels of reserves – the northern Jay and Blackjack field and the southern Sunniland Field.

Henry Fishkind, an economist with Fishkind & Associates in Orlando, said the state could expect $31 billion in new revenue over 20 years with the current estimates of oil deposits.

AIF has pointed out that transporting oil is where the biggest risk for spills lies.

Proponents point to a recent Mason-Dixon poll that found 59 percent of Floridians generally support drilling off Florida’s coast. The survey found 79 percent would support drilling if it raises money for education, health care and environmental protection.

“Recent public opinion surveys document that Floridians have come to strongly support exploration and production of oil and gas resources off the Florida coast,” said Larry Harris, a principal with Mason-Dixon. “Nine in 10 voters (88 percent) support offshore production if it is done in an environmentally safe fashion and raises significant revenues, boosts the economy and creates jobs.

Henry B. Nathan is a real estate specialist in North Dade County, especially Sunny Isles, Aventura, and North Miami Beach.

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