Here’s a blast from the past made all the more poignant by the government’s renewed search for oil in the shark-rich waters off the Gulf coast of Florida. This was probably the last time George Bush received even grudging praise from environmentalists.
In an L.A. Times article from May 30, 2002, archived on www.waterconserve.info Jeb’s bro moved to curb drilling within 30 miles of the Florida coast and in the Everglades through a huge drilling rights buy-back.
The federal government will pay $115 million to oil companies to drop their fight to drill about 30 miles off the Florida Panhandle. The companies bought drilling rights in the 1980s but faced obstacles put up by Republican and Democratic state officials who objected that drilling could wreak havoc on the white-sand beaches in the Panhandle and on the state’s vital tourism industry.
The federal government will spend an additional $120 million to buy oil and gas drilling rights held by private individuals in three sensitive areas of the Everglades. Bush’s decision to preserve what he termed “some of our nation’s most beautiful natural treasures” should bolster his environmental credentials in Florida, as well as help his brother Jeb, who is seeking reelection there as governor.
Jeb was right there, riding his big brother’s political coattails and chiming in:
Jeb Bush, who visited the White House on Wednesday, conceded that he stands to benefit from his brother’s move. “But more importantly,” he added, “it is good public policy, and when there’s a convergence of good politics and good public policy, I don’t think we should be ashamed about it.”
But that comment apparently pissed off George:
The White House denied that politics played a role in the decision.
The usual suspects were predictably agin the buy-back:
“National energy supply has certainly been handed a setback today,” said R. Skip Horvath, president of the Natural Gas Supply Assn. He noted that the now-abandoned offshore drilling tract in Florida potentially contained large natural gas reserves–as much as 2.6 trillion cubic feet. The nation consumes almost 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas annually.
Do the math. IF the tract would have yielded 2.6 trillion cubic feet, that’s only about a month’s worth of natural gas for all the potential environmental damage off Florida’s coast.
But in a quote that could have been said during the current debate — and probably was — a retired senator from Louisiana put it this way:
Sen. John B. Breaux (D-La.), who has supported the president’s efforts to open the Arctic refuge to drilling, said: “Once again politics is deciding energy policy…. Surely the administration that supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should find a way to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, where we have been successfully drilling for the past 60 years.”
When has politics not decided energy policy?
Of course, not all environmentalists were fooled by the move:
Referring to the total cost of the decision, Phil Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, called it a “$235-million campaign contribution to the Reelect Jeb Bush Committee, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers. It’s a great move for Florida, and clearly any state that wants to protect its environment ought to follow suit and elect a Bush.”
But Jeb can’t run for governor now, can he? And he said he’s not going to run for president, right? …. ELECT A BUSH AND SAVE YOUR ENVIRONMENT!