Despite bipartisan support and the support of most Americans, not to mention common sense, the Miami Herald comes out in an editorial today strongly opposing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico
, calling the latest plan a "hoax".
Webster defines fraud as ''deceit, trickery, cheating.'' By that standard, the latest proposal to open the waters off Florida's Gulf coast to oil drilling certainly qualifies for that label. It is more than a little disheartening to see both presidential candidates buy into a harmful, discredited idea that smacks of pure politics and will produce no relief from the pain at the pump. Last week, just before the start of the official summer recess, a group of senators floated a plan to lift a ban on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf in return for repeal of tax breaks for oil companies and spending $20 billion on alternative-fuel research. Apparently, the people of Florida would have no say in this.
The plan is deceitful in a variety of ways. Under the guise of doing something worthwhile, like investing in renewable energy -- shouldn't Congress be doing this anyway? -- it would put Florida's beaches and the state's $65 billion tourism industry at enormous risk. And all for nothing, given the consensus that a green light to drill in the Gulf won't bring prices down. As Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens has said, we cannot drill our way out of this problem -- not when the United States represents 4 percent of the world's population and uses 25 percent of the oil.
Don't be fooled by assurances that drilling would occur so far from the beaches that they would be safe from harm. Accidents occur in moving and shipping the oil, as was the case with the recent barge accident on the Mississippi River. That puts every beach near any port or river on the Gulf Coast -- maybe the Atlantic Coast, too -- at risk.
The sudden stampede to promote coastal drilling falls far short of the leadership that Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives. Instead of offering a hasty scheme designed to appease angry voters, lawmakers should be devising a careful strategy that will move the country away from the addiction to oil. This would include developing long-term sources of energy and dropping the tariff on ethanol produced in countries like Brazil.
Sen. John McCain, who was once against drilling off the coast, abandoned his opposition in June. Sen. Barack Obama has also opposed drilling, but he appeared close to endorsing the latest proposal last week. We hope he holds to his original position. A bad idea is a bad idea, even when it is dressed up as a bipartisan compromise. Supporting oil exploration in the eastern Gulf just because it's more popular these days isn't leadership. It is a mistake.
Why it is automatically implied that drilling won't provide relief at the pump? The recent drop in oil prices has been largely attributed to decrease in demand. I'm no economist, but it only makes sense that if you increase supply, even marginally, while keeping demand relatively stable, prices will tend to come down. Not to mention the fact that more oil pulled up by the United States means less money sent to foreign countries for their oil. The Herald editorial board is stuck in the same mentality of the past 5, 10, 15, 20 years when it comes to oil.
Of course, there's no guarantee that there won't be spills or accidents. I don't know about you, but I trust our technology and manpower to safely drill for oil than sit around and do nothing while China and Cuba are chomping at the bit to drill in the same oil fields. Do we trust China and Cuba to use state of the art and safe methods in OUR backyard? I don't.
The Herald's alternative solutions include "developing long-term sources of energy and dropping the tariff on ethanol produced in countries like Brazil." That "sounds" good, and we should definitely be aggressively pursuing alternative energy sources. However, a check of the Herald archives shows that this is no easy task, at least when compared to the efficiency and availability of oil. Here's an article from last month about solar energy being a "tough sell
Sugar for ethanol production in Florida? Well, we do have lots of sugar
. At least until the state completes the buyout of the sugarcane fields south of Lake Okeechobee, thanks to Gov. Crist. So much for locally produced sugar and ethanol.
Nuclear? Ask FPL how their efforts to expand their nuclear plant program is going.
Wind power? Apparently we don't get enough wind in Florida
for it to efficiently work.
The bottom line is that it's shortsighted to be against oil drilling because even if we can pull up a relatively small amount from the Gulf, it's a step towards energy independence. We should also be pursuing all the other alternatives, which as illustrated won't be easy, but in the end it's a worthwhile endeavor. Perhaps the Herald can explain this in future editorials.