Monday, November 07, 2005

Betraying the Beaches


An Associated Press dispatch by long-time reporter Bill Kraczor today identifies incumbent congressman Jeff Miller (R-Chumukla) as favoring the Bush brothers' plan to allow oil and gas drilling off Pensacola Beach.

We've known this for some time, of course. All that's changed is that Miller's stupid alibi has fallen apart.

Jeff Miller's Northwest Florida congressional district includes beaches like those in Destin, Ft. Walton, Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Perdido Key. All are famed for their unique sugar white sands. The dangers to these beaches from drilling -- even if it were to be temporarily limited to no closer than a hundred miles offshore, as some claim -- have been thoroughly documented by multiple studies in the past. As a spokesman for Florida's Sierra Club chapter summarized four years ago (when Miller claimed to be against Gulf drilling), "More rigs mean more pipelines and tankers, and thus a higher risk to Florida and Alabama's coastal economies and fisheries."

Public opinion polls over the years have consistently shown local and visitors overwhelmingly oppose drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Even the pro-business Haas Center's confessedly unscientific poll of hand-picked "panelists" shows that, locally, twice as many oppose drilling as favor it.

Of course, anyone who resents recent price gouging by gas and oil companies might be selfish enough to trade a few tanks of slightly cheaper gas for their grandchildren's natural heritage. If anything, though, one of Hurricane Katrina's important lessons is that putting more drilling rigs and petroleum pipelines and oil tankers in the Gulf doesn't help to solve our domestic energy needs. At best, it buys only a few more months for suburban Hum-Vees -- in exchange for the decades-long risk of ruptured tankers, leaking pipelines, and storm-toppled drilling rigs fouling the unique beach environmment for generations to come.

So why would Congressman Jeff Miller betray his own consitutents by exposing Pensacola area beaches -- and the entire Panhandle tourist economy -- to ecological and economic disaster? Because he figures that he's a shoo-in for reelection.

That turns out to be a common characteritistic of nearly every Florida Republican who's been working to grease the political process for Chevron, Texaco, and other multi-national oil companies. As University of Central Florida political scientist Aubrey Jewett told Kraczor the other day, "Ironically, in most congressional races probably the majority of Republicans that might vote for this are reasonably safe."

That's not 'ironic.' That's hubris. Incumbent congressmen like Jeff Miller suppose they can ignore the public interest because their seats are "safe" and we'll vote for them no matter what they do or who they betray.

When you think about it, that's the best reason of all to vote Miller and his cohorts out of office.

1 comment:

Bryan said...

In addition it would inhibit if not destroy the usefulness of Eglin AFB as a test facility, as they currently test weapons out over the Gulf, and the Navy uses that area for exercises that target the land ranges on Eglin.

We would lose tourism and the most important employer in Okaloosa County by putting platforms in the Gulf.