Banned Oil Drilling in Florida Does Nothing to Save the Environment

None of us saw this simple truth: The Gulf doesn’t have state lines; currents don’t stop at government mandated boundaries; you drill baby drill in the Gulf of Mexico, a wellhead explodes, and the oil can potentially drift in currents that carry it to all of the landmasses bordering the Gulf and beyond. -- A Million Fragile Bones



Donald Trump, at Florida Governor Rick Scott’s urging, has removed Florida from his wide-sweeping, apocalyptic plan to expand oil drilling in Arctic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic waters. This is, of course, a political maneuver designed to help boost Republican Scott’s possible efforts to unseat longtime Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. Scott hasn’t announced his run, but according to a Saint Leo University survey, Scott could beat Nelson by double-digits. Open up Florida waters to drilling and it’s a solid bet Scott’s political career could be over.

So, no, the Trump administration, villainous as usual, didn’t suddenly grow a heart over the environment. Neither did Rick Scott. This was a political calculation that, in fact, completely leaves the planet in immense peril.

As we learned in the 2010 BP Gulf oil spill, gushing oil knows no boundaries. Oil doesn’t stop its deadly flow at state, federal, or international map lines. Oil gets picked up by currents and travels thousands of miles, spoiling the planet far, far away from the original mishap.

When the BP Maconda well blew fifty miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River, all five Gulf states were severely impacted. These impacts are still being felt by wildlife and humans alike. As I state in A Million Fragile Bones, “In a 2016 report, NWF [National Wildlife Federation] states, ‘In the first five years after the disaster, more than three-quarters of pregnant bottlenose dolphins in the oiled areas failed to give birth to a live calf.’”

We still do not know if many oil-and-Corexit impacted species, including Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, will recover. Nor do we know the extent of the adverse effects on human health. However, it is now clear that the oil and toxic dispersants used in the “clean up” caused cancers, respiratory issues, and other health concerns among exposed persons.

Despite our growing body of knowledge about the devastation wrought by the BP oil spill and the toxic means used to disappear it, “For countless reasons — among them, corporate and governmental obfuscation, the enormity of the disaster, and the limits of present-day science — we may never know how bad it was.” ( A Million Fragile Bones)

Trump’s Florida offshore plan is a cynical move designed to help a loyal supporter’s political future. It does nothing to support our future. It does not protect the environment — not Florida’s or any other coastal state’s. Texas and Louisiana are, alas, lost causes, bought and owned by Big Oil, and their recklessness has, indeed, irrevocably damaged huge swaths of our planet.

But the rest of our coastal communities? From Washington to Maine, people must find a way to make their voices heard. They must bring all possible pressure on their elected officials to resist Trump’s latest plan to turn the Earth over to Big Oil, a plan that is about one thing: Big Oil getting even richer.

We don’t have Big Oil’s influence and surely not their money. But that can’t stop us. We simply cannot go silently into an oiled wasteland’s eternal night.


Trump Believes in Addressing Climate Change . . . um, er . . . At Least He Should


A few months before the 2017 U.S. presidential election, I heard Donald Trump in an interview hedge. He essentially admitted that climate change was real, but then pivoted, saying that if solving climate change hurt the economy, he would pick business over the environment.

Binary thinking—good/bad, love/hate, smartest/dumbest—is typical of Trump and, perhaps, he engages in it because his base can easily grasp on/off concepts.

Leadership, of course, requires a much more complex approach to problem solving. But in this case, given what Mother Nature has wrought over these past few months combined with Trump’s money-focused myopia, shouldn't he be demanding, tweeting, bloviating on behalf of the climate?

Shouldn't the United States' catastrophic economic losses, which were due to weather patterns spawning unprecedented fire and hurricane seasons, inspire even Trump--the man who said, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive"--to embrace, promote, and develop policies, treaties, and technologies designed to roll back the temperatures of our warming planet?

Etched out by economists and prognosticators, some of whom probably voted for Trump, the numbers leave the President with no wiggle room.

According to CBS Evening News’ John Blackstone, the western fires “. . . have destroyed more than 220,000 acres, and 5,700 homes and businesses. More than 90,000 people have been displaced.”

The Dallas News reports that Texas could experience economic losses of between 75 and 90 billion dollars due to Hurricane Harvey.

“Moody's estimates that Hurricanes Irma and Harvey combined caused more than $150 billion in damage after those storms hit major U.S. cities in Texas, Florida and Georgia,” CNN Money reports. As for Puerto Rico, CNN Money goes on to say, “The Moody's estimate says as much as $40 billion could be lost in economic output because of impassable roads and lost power. Property damage could total $55 billion.”

U.S. Virgin Islands delegate to Congress, Rep. Stacey Plaskett told MSNBC, "We've lost practically 70% of our infrastructure in terms of utility system on the island St. Thomas and all of the utility system on the island of St. John." Jewels of American tourism, the U.S. Virgin Islands, like Puerto Rico, have experienced economic losses that will total in the billions.

In a cruel, calculated bid at speaking only about things that seem to matter to the President, I am not including death toll numbers in this blog post. My gut tells me the human cost—lives lost and the suffering of survivors—don’t enter into his mental calculations.

Money is his language.

So let's talk. Those in power, those who have his ear? I want you to lean in real close and whisper hard enough he feels your breath against his skin, as you ask the following questions.

  • How much more environmental chaos can the economy afford?
  • What happens to local, state, and federal economies if the extreme weather extends into winter?
  • What happens to those same economies if next year’s hurricane and fire seasons are even close in terms of economic devastation to 2017?
  • What about the costs of climate-change related health problems skyrocketing, especially in what appears to be a new era of no affordable health care?

And finally, power boys, I want you to ask him this: How long can we go on behaving as if it’s Economy First, when climate change promises to destroy our economic systems and when behind every number we see, there is a human face?

We're listening.

Further Reading:

"Trump, Prioritizing Economy over Climate, Cites Disputed Premises"

Hurricane Harvey Death Toll

The U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean Islands

Under-reported Puerto Rico Death Toll