In the early 1960′s the law of supply and demand greatly irked Cuba’s "Minister of the Economy" Ernesto "Che" Guevara. "No problemo!" he decided. I’ll simply abolish it by creating a "New Man," with these insufferable Cubans as my Guinea Pigs. The world’s intelligentsia applauded deliriously as 14,000 Cubans were murdered by firing squad, 77,000 drowned or were ripped apart by sharks attempting to flee Guevara’s whim, and half a million were herded into political prisons and forced labor camps at bayonet point. (All of this out of a Cuban population of 6.5 million meaning that Castro and Che’s political incarceration rate topped Stalin’s.)
And wouldn’t you know it? After years of this glorious effort, cheered by everyone from Jean Paul Sartre to George Mc Govern, that doggone law of supply and demand held firm, while Cuba’s per capita income (surpassing half of Europe’s in the 1950′s) plummeted to nudge Haiti’s.
For fear of oil spills, as of 2008, the U.S. Federal government and various states ban drilling in thousands upon thousands of square miles off the U.S. Coast. These areas, primarily on the Outer Continental Shelf, hold an estimated 115 billion barrels of oil and 633 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This leaves America ‘s energy needs increasingly at the mercy of foreign autocrats, despots and maniacs. All the while worldwide demand for oil ratchets ever upward.
At times you’d swear that Che Guevara’s bloody lesson (not to mention Lenin, Mao, and Pol Pot’s) has yet to sink in. And that’s only part of the idiocy. For those who favor evidence over dogma, a lesson in the "environmental perils" of offshore oil drilling presents itself every bit as starkly, though much less murderously. To wit:
Of the roughly 3,700 offshore oil production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, roughly 3,200 lie off the Louisiana coast. Yet Louisiana produces one-third of America’s commercial fisheries and no major oil spill has ever soiled its coast.
On the other hand, Florida, which zealously prohibits offshore oil drilling, had its gorgeous "Emerald Coast" panhandle beaches soiled by an ugly oil spill in 1976. This spill, as almost all oil spills, resulted from the transportation of oil — not from the extraction of oil. Assuming such as Hugo Chavez deign to keep selling us oil, we’ll need increasingly more and we’ll need to keep transporting it stateside — typically to refineries in Louisiana and Texas.
This path takes those tankers (as the one in 1976) smack in front of Florida’s panhandle beaches. Recall the Valdez, the Cadiz, the Argo Merchant. These were all tanker spills. The production of oil is relatively clean and safe. Again, it’s the transportation that presents the greatest risk. And even these spills (though hyped hysterically as environmental catastrophes) always play out as minor blips, those pictures of oil-soaked seagulls notwithstanding. To the horror and anguish of professional greenies, Alaska’s Prince William Sound recovered completely. More birds get fried by landing on power lines and smashed to pulp against picture windows in one week than perished from three decades of oil spills.
But forget cheaper oil and less pollution for a second. All fishermen and scuba divers out there should plead with their states to open up offshore oil drilling posthaste. I refer to the fabulous fishing — the EXPLOSION of marine life that accompanies the erection of offshore oil platforms.
“Environmentalists” wake up in the middle of the night sweating and whimpering about offshore oil platforms only because they’ve never seen what’s under them. This proliferation of marine life around the platforms turned on its head every “environmental expert” opinion of its day.
The original plan, mandated by federal environmental “experts” back in the late ’40s, was to remove the big, ugly, polluting, environmentally hazardous contraptions as soon as they stopped producing. Fine, said the oil companies.
About 15 years ago some wells played out off Louisiana and the oil companies tried to comply. Their ears are still ringing from the clamor fishermen put up. Turns out those platforms are going nowhere, and by popular demand of those with a bigger stake in the marine environment than any “environmentalist.”
Every “environmental” superstition against these structures was turned on its head. Marine life had EXPLODED around these huge artificial reefs: A study by LSU’s Sea Grant college shows that 85 percent of Louisiana fishing trips involve fishing around these platforms. The same study shows that there’s 50 times more marine life around an oil production platform than in the surrounding mud bottoms.
An environmental study (by apparently honest scientists) revealed that urban runoff and treated sewage dump 12 times the amount of petroleum into the Gulf than those thousands of oil production platforms. And oil seeping naturally through the ocean floor into the Gulf, where it dissipates over time, accounts for 7 times the amount spilled by rigs and pipelines in any given year.
The Flower Garden coral reefs lie off the Louisiana-Texas border. Unlike any of the Florida Keys reefs, they’re surrounded by dozens of offshore oil platforms.
These have been pumping away for the past 50 years. Yet according to G.P. Schmahl, a Federal biologist who worked for decades in both places, “The Flower Gardens are much healthier, more pristine than anything in the Florida Keys. It was a surprise to me,” he admits. “And I think it’s a surprise to most people.”
“A key measure of the health of a reef is the amount of area taken up by coral,” according to a report by Steve Gittings, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s science coordinator for marine sanctuaries. “Louisiana’s Flower Garden boasts nearly 50 percent coral cover. In the Florida Keys it can run as little as 5 percent.”
Mark Ferrulo, a Florida “environmental activist” uses the very example of Louisiana for his anti-offshore drilling campaign, calling Louisiana’s coast “the nation’s toilet.”
Florida’s fishing fleet must love fishing in toilets, and her restaurants serving what’s in them. Most of the red snapper you eat in Florida restaurants are caught around Louisiana’s oil platforms. We see the Florida-registered boats tied up to them constantly. Sometimes us locals can barely squeeze in.
America desperately needs more domestic oil. In the process of producing it, we’d also get a cheaper tab for broiled red snapper with crabmeat/shrimp topping.
Humberto Fontova [send him mail] is the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him.