Burn Baby Burn: The Oil Industry's Lies Seep To Shore | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Burn Baby Burn: The Oil Industry's Lies Seep To Shore

Before it's all said and done more than 4 million gallons of oil will likely spill into the Gulf of Mexico thanks to the BP oil rig disaster that also presumably cost 11 workers their lives.

It's making its way to shore in Mississippi and Louisiana and could destroy one of the great fisheries in America -- and the livelihoods of thousands in the process. Officials are employing controlled fires to try to reduce the impact. That's right, the Gulf of Mexico is on fire right now.

Drill Baby Drill has been replaced by Burn Baby Burn. It's a huge disaster as it is, but imagine if that oil was on its way to our beaches right now.

Imagine what it would do to tourism and our economy. Imagine what it would do to our quality of life. Damn near unthinkable isn't it?

It was just a month ago that we called out the Sun-Sentinel for whoring out the front page of its Sunday Outlook section to dipshit oil industry flack Hank Fishkind, who touted all the benefits that offshore oil drilling would bring. The title of the cover story: "Florida Oil Rush: Black Gold Isn't 

Fool's Gold." Here's what Fishkind, who is paid by the oil industry, wrote for the Sentinel, pooh-poohing any chances of an oil spill:

"Of course, opponents of the proposal point to Florida's tourism industry as an important consideration for policymakers. Despite the fact that virtually 100 percent of tourists who visit Florida must consume petroleum to power their automobiles or airplanes, these opponents say Florida should not even consider an energy policy that could present a risk to tourism, no matter how slight. I believe a sound energy policy will produce far more economic benefit than coastal risk, will support the large needs of the tourist industry and pose no risk to the inland portions of the tourism industry, which accounts for fully 50 percent of statewide visitor activity.

It is important to note that offshore drilling conducted under U.S. environmental safety standards is extremely safe. There have been no significant oil spills as a result of offshore drilling within the United States in 40 years, and offshore drilling is not and would not be the largest factor presenting such an oil spill risk."

Then he goes on to talk about the fact that the Tampa Bay spill of 1993 didn't hinder tourism that much. That spill, of course, consisted of about 8,500 barrels of oil. This one in the Gulf right now is spilling 5,000 barrels a day and will top 100,000 barrels if it can't be contained.

"In the 13-month period following that spill, tourism in Pinellas County declined no more than 2 percent. The state's tourist development monthly tax revenues fell 2 percent during this period compared with the expected average revenue numbers. In addition, the total estimated hotel sales revenue declined $3.1 million during the 13-month period, though other factors, such as the tourist murders that occurred at that time and the recession of 1991-1992 no doubt contributed to this decline.

By September 1994 - 13 months after the spill - tourist tax and hotel revenues returned to and exceeded those levels prior to the spill. At no time were there damages approximating billions of dollars, nor was there a precipitous decline in tourism levels. The Great Recession of 2008-2010 has produced far greater losses than the oil spill of 1993."

You listen to the Fishkinds of the world long enough and you can forget common sense: When humans are playing with huge amounts oil in the ocean, debacles aren't just likely they are inevitable. It's just a matter of time.

You have to love the way Fishkind doesn't so much as touch on the ecological impacts of spills or its effect on fish and wildlife -- just dollars and tourists. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the Gulf spill, check out this satellite photograph:

It makes the McCain/Palin "Drill Baby Drill" chant during the 2008 election even more galling. They seemingly got to everyone, including Obama, who recently unveiled a plan to expand offshore drilling. The Florida Legislature, for decades opposed to drilling off the coast, passed a bill in 2009 to open up drilling as well.

Charlie Crist has flip-flopped and joined the Drill Baby Drill crowd -- another suck-up to John McCain -- but now he says the new rig disaster has given him "pause" on the issue.

Even Michael Mayo, the eminently sensible Sun-Sentinel political columnist, basically came out for expanded oil drilling two weeks ago.

"How about this idea: Our junior senator could broker a deal where all Florida homeowners get affordable windstorm coverage through national catastrophe insurance. In exchange, we allow expanded oil drilling off Florida's shores," Mayo wrote on April 18. "I say go for it, Independent Charlie. For Floridians, it could have a nice ring - and ka-ching - to it."

Whoa. Talk about bad timing.

The truth is that Southeast Florida isn't in the line of fire yet, but it will be. Studies are being done now to open up drilling here several years down the road. Hopefully this reality check will kill those ideas dead.