Get it yet? It’s not just about global warming…

Network television cameras and journalists around the world have been focused on fishing spot that I visited for a couple of Spring Break trips back the 1980s. This is never a good thing and in this case, it’s particularly bad. But it was a nice spot when I went. At the time, you could join a 16-member pick-up team of bottom fishers for $35. The captain would haul you out into the Gulf of Mexico about 20 miles for a 6-hour adventure where anglers would drop heavily-weighted, double-hooked terminal tackle baited with hunks of squid down and bring up trigger fish and snapper as fast as they could crank their level-wind reels.  In some ways, it seems more like berry-picking than traditional sport fishing.
Two deck hands would run around untangling lines, baiting hooks and removing fish in an exercise that looked something like watching one-legged men in an ass-kicking contest. It was all great — the sea, the sun, the projectile hurling. Personally, I did it because I was into seafood and this is a good business decision on a good day. The last time I went out, I came home with 45 pounds of snapper fillets, which came to about $50 by the time I paid for the trip, got my fish cleaned and left a tip or two. With snapper fillets going for $5.99 a pound at the fish markets on shore, I figured I came out a couple of hundred dollars ahead, in addition to having a diversion for the morning.
I always thought I’d like to go back down there and do it again, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be any time soon. As we’ve been watching for the past week and a half, an offshore drilling rig exploded and sank. It’s now dumping thousands of gallons of crude oil into the gulf. The fishing fleet is grounded for God knows how long and we’re looking at what many are calling the greatest environmental disaster since the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska more than 20 years ago.
“The Obama Administration is forcing people to pay at least $1,100 more for their vehicles to avoid an immeasurable temperature change—90 years from now,” crowed the Institute for Energy Research on April Fool’s Day this year. They were ragging about the Administration’s move to require new cars and light trucks to reach a standard of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. It’s one of those tax-deductible education “charities” – this one run by the former director of public relations policy for Enron, the last I heard. They went on to decry the loss of jobs in the auto industry and more deaths on the highways that would come from downsizing vehicles. “The Obama Administration is forcing people to pay at least $1,100 more for their vehicles to avoid an immeasurable temperature change—90 years from now,” they carp. 
Well, here’s something for the “Drill, Baby, Drill” crowd to keep in mind about energy policy as we watch the slick of crude expand by the hour and threaten a huge chunk of our environment in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. It comes to you from someone who has spent few decades in the energy industry and it’s this: I don’t really know or care whether man-made global climate change is a fact or not. It’s not that it isn’t important. It’s that just about everything we can do to combat it would also have positive near-term benefits for national security, the economy and the environment. We’ve got people dying in coal mines, oil slicks, clouds of crud in the skies, periodic economic shocks and unstable countries having a disproportionate influence on our policy decisions right now. We need to be doing things right now – not 90 years from now. Right now.



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