President Obama…Who’s Gonna Fix This Mess?

In Energy Policy, Presidential Politics on May 21, 2010 at 8:28 am

I don’t know about you, but I have lost all faith that the British Petroleum Company (BP) has a clue about how to fix this mess of an oil leak that they created.  Either that, or they are more concerned about not damaging the well structure than they are protecting the world’s ecology.  I don’t want to believe that but it seems impossible for an organization as sophisticated and high-tech as BP to be so helpless on what should be their core competency. 

Our government, the organization we usually look to for fast solutions to problems of this magnitude has suddenly gone missing in action.  “It’s BP’s mess and they are responsible to clean it up” says our government leaders.  Bull.  It’s the world’s mess…caused by BP who shall be forever known as the defendant in courts around the world…and the world needs to get busy before we find ourselves with the worst environmental disaster in the history of mankind.

BP has had thirty days to stop a leak…granted a leak one mile under the sea…but this isn’t their first rodeo.  They spend millions of dollars a year convincing the world that oil drilling is as safe as mother’s milk.  They are the dream team of petrochemical knowledge.  They speak of being BP…beyond petroleum.  Good grief they can’t even plug a hole.

Meanwhile we…the people of the world…continue to watch as massive amounts of oil gush into the Gulf of Mexico headed for land near and far…poisoning fisheries and critical ecosystems, damaging beaches and the economy of States and nations, adding to the unemployment rates and family burdens.

In the last 18 months our federal government has inserted itself in places it arguably does not belong and seems determined to continue that encroachment of private business and family responsibility.  Those are debates that will continue and the people will finally decide what level of big government they want in their lives.  Where, I wonder, is our government’s new keen interest in all things when the BP disaster tops our national news every single night for a month?  It’s like they are dealing with a sovereign nation and can’t offend or intrude…just raise concerns and rattle our political rhetoric.  Enough.

The health and welfare of our nation is at stake.  It’s time to take control and bring the world’s resources to the table.  Stop being afraid of this disaster being labeled “Obama’s Katrina”.  Fix it.  Now.  Surely someone in the world is smart enough to know how to seal a pipe laying in 5000 feet of water.  If not…we should stop all deep water drilling until someone can demonstrate that knowledge…and start mandating $100 billion dollar bonds for those who risk our lives and future for oil.

And…shame on us if we don’t immediately shift our creativity to renewable energy sources…with passion and an urgency that involves us all.  We can do it.  We just have to make up our minds.

  This crazy, destructive dependence on oil has got to end.

Which Comes First, Public Service or Political Party?

In Congressional Politics, Florida Politics, Political Parties on May 13, 2010 at 5:56 am

With Florida’s Governor Charlie Crist making giant waves by switching from the Republican Party to an NPA (No Party Affiliation) he has created a big brouhaha about the possibility of winning a statewide election without the endorsement and support of a major political party.   

 Of course, it has been done before…a couple of times…but not in modern times (think George Washington) or not a major State like Florida (think Ventura and Lieberman).  The two biggest hurdles for NPAs are name recognition and money…two mountains really…Grand Teton size.  A big media market State like Florida demands political war chests of tens of millions of dollars to win a statewide race.   So, how do you get those two critical commodities when you don’t have a political machine to do it for you?

Rick Scott, the totally unknown Republican running for Governor, has a boatload of personal money that he has been blowing on television for a month now.  The polls show that he is getting traction despite the small fact that no one has a clue who he is except via the TV ads.  He is defining himself with his money and so far is doing okay.  While he does not have the backing of his Republican party (they endorsed AG Bill McCollum)  he would certainly get it in the general election if he could take out McCollum in the primary.

So, Scott is an example of one way to get name ID if you have your own stash of cash.  Of course, at some point he will have to come out of the TV screen and start defending who he is and what he has done.  Baggage exists…editorial boards await…opposition research will surface if he get much more traction…but, it could happen.  Financing your own campaign works if you have deep pockets….Mayor Blumberg of NYC is a prime example…an NPA also. 

Back to Charlie.  In addition to a sizable campaign account and mega name recognition he also is the sitting Governor.  A Governor who has a stage made larger by budget woes and BP’s mess in the Gulf.  Both of these are playing extremely well for him right now.  His earned media numbers (as a Governor solving problems) are out the roof and growing by the minute.  This race for U.S. Senate is going to be very entertaining.

Republicans are beside themselves.  Name calling has commenced and it is not a pretty sight.  A man who has won office after office…his entire life as a Republican…has the audacity to continue running as an NPA because his party was rushing…stampeding…to support his more conservative opponent.  How dare he do such a thing.  Really?

Which comes first, a desire to serve the public or picking a brand that defines who you are?  Is the “party” central to the individual or is the individual central to the “party”?  Chicken or egg issue here.  Did Charlie first run for office because he “believed so deeply in the Republican ideology” or because he wanted to serve the public.  And…if that party abandons him for another candidate who more closely fits today’s definition of the party ideology…is he supposed to roll up his tent and head home?  Did Charlie abandon the party, or did the party abandon Charlie?  Passionate arguments on both sides of that question.

Yes, Charlie Crist can win this U.S. Senate seat as an NPA.  He has the money, the name recognition and the bully pulpit of a sitting Governor.  His opposition is strong, well-funded and has the enthusiastic support of the Republican Party…he too can win.  In the end, the winner will be decided by the decision of the voters as they think about the central question:  Do I vote for the party or the individual?  A question as old as political parties themselves.

I’ve said in this column before that I like both these men.  I will make my choice based on how I feel about  their individual ability and skill to run the traps in the U.S. Senate.  My vote in the general election will be about my confidence level in the candidate…not a political party.

Very liberating….

Drill Baby…I Mean Renew Baby, Renew

In Energy Policy, Florida Politics on May 12, 2010 at 5:40 am

The Great State of Florida has been on a merry-go-round the last two years in its debate over drilling for oil off it’s coastline and renewable energy mandates.  Most people have an understanding of the big picture problem:  One, we use too much of a finite resource, a resource that is substantially controlled by folks a long way away from us who don’t really see eye-to-eye with us on much of anything.  Two, our economy is dependent on massive supplies of energy.  Three, we keep our heads deep in the sand until some event forces us to look up, thus never really facing the energy reality of tomorrow. 

The usual and customary event to get our worry beads going is gasoline price spikes.  Let gas go up a dollar or so…as it has several times in the last few years and we all start wringing our hands and looking for solutions. During the spike we see editorials about car pooling, mass transit, finding more oil in America, alternative sources, etc.   Gas prices go down…and back our heads go in the sand.  End of story until the next event.

Our current “event” is quite a doosie.    Not a price spike but an oil rig explosion that has our worry beads working overtime.  Who would have thought that with all the practice these oil boys get drilling, capping, drilling capping that they would have no clue about stopping 200,000 gallons of oil a day from escaping their rig?  It seems it is all in Mother Nature’s hand now…where it goes, what it damages…whose economy it destroys.

So…our heads are out of the sand again and we are talking fast…what do we do?  How can we prevent this from happening again? How do we produce clean energy?  Let’s ban oil drilling by passing an amendment to the  Florida Constitution.  Really, can’t we do better than that?

Our elected leaders are all in a wad about having a special legislative session to put an amendment on the November ballot to “once and for all” prohibit oil drilling off the coast of Florida.  Sounds noble.  Of course, it is already the law of the State.  But…a special legislative session might not be a bad idea…if…in addition to beating our chests, wringing our hands, vowing to get every nickle from BP, and considering ways to protect our shores…we also, for the first time, set into motion a renewable energy policy that gets Florida off square one and moving to become the renewable energy mega state that we rightfully should be.

The question is…how do we get all that done in a special session of one week.   Not reasonable but we certainly could set the stage for ongoing work to get the job done.  Here is what could be done in the session:  One, make everyone feel better about the oil disaster by strengthening the statute forbidding drilling off our coast…but please, no amendment to Florida’s constitution.  Two, craft a renewable energy bill that allows the free market to work in that segment of the energy business.  Currently the law gives all power and glory to the regulated utility companies and prevents folks with capital and ideas from setting up shop in Florida to produce energy.  Let’s change that ONLY for the renewables and see if opening the market (without mandates) will spur the production of renewable energy and the manufacture of the infrastructure and equipment to create a vibrant industry.  No threat to the power companies, no big deal about changing current supply to those of us who like it when the lights come on.

Then…before and during the next regular session, let’s work to refine a long-term solution to Florida’s energy needs.  One that respects the need for fossil fuel and nuclear, but looks forward to new sources of energy…that we control and that are much less threat to our environment.  Critical to this work is a Senate champion, a House champion, and a Governor champion.  Step up boys and girls, we need heros here and now.

If any State can pull this off, Florida can.  We have all the raw materials needed to become the gold standard of renewable energy production.  Let’s not waste this opportunity by making everyone feel better and accomplishing nothing for our future.

Let’s keep our heads out of the sand…forever.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.