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Gerald Honigman is a Florida educator who has done extensive doctoral work in Middle East studies, has lectured on numerous university and other platforms. He has debated many of the best Arab and pro-Arab academics in public debates and on television. Mr. Honigman is widely published in academic journals, magazines, newspapers and other publications.

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PostTue May 04, 2010 10:05 pm     The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Energy Policies    

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Drill Baby Drill!

by Gerald A. Honigman

Or not...

Two aspirins can cure a headache. Two hundred will have you pushing up daisies.

No doubt, I'm gonna tick off some of my friends.

I don't care. They need to hear this loud and clear...

Too often folks get themselves into corners... a yer either with me or agin' me sort of thing.

This is popping up far too often on ecological issues that impact on us all and the place we all call home, Earth.

As one of only fifty teachers in the entire state of Florida who was asked by the State to write the ecological/environmental science education guidelines, I know a bit about this subject.

Lately, worldwide, the focus has largely been on the global warming, greenhouse effect debate.

The lines were drawn, and too often folks migrated to one polarized corner or the other.

No doubt, Mother Earth has had periods of rises and falls in temperature over the various eras of geological time.

No doubt, various sources of natural greenhouse gases (without which Earth would be uninhabitable to us)have also continuously come into play regarding this equation.

But, common sense demands--or should--that billions of extra tons of such gas poured into the atmosphere each year at a time when the natural "sinks" of one of the main gases--carbon dioxide--are rapidly being diminished (natural forests) just might not be a good thing. Two aspirins can cure a headache, but...

Look, regardless of the global warming debate, there are oodles of good reasons to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, especially petroleum and coal. Obviously, this ain't gonna happen overnight, but the sooner we get serious about this, the better.

While cheap and abundant, fossil fuels and their related petrochemicals also are, beyond doubt, among the very top leading causes of the degradation of Earth's ecological health. With so many centuries of coal still available to us and other sources of oil within reach, this will be a tough decision to make...but correct, nonetheless.

Right now, folks here in Florida are awaiting the oil spilled from a major mishap in Louisiana. Loop currents in the Gulf of Mexico are set to bring this disaster to our Atlantic coast as well as the immediately-threatened Gulf coast. Many folks will lose jobs over this, the cost of seafood will certainly go up, tourism at impacted beaches will disappear, etc. and so forth. And that does not even address the ecological costs which, in the long run, may be even more devastating.

The British Petroleum rig that blew up has already dumped far more than the Exxon Valdez did when it ran aground in pristine Alaskan waters back in '89. Together with smaller, but more numerous, spills over the decades, our oil addiction has contaminated and otherwise degraded marine and estuarine ecosystems big time, taking a tremendous toll. While man is also a part of these complex systems, too often he seems to forget that. As Chief Seattle of the great Northwestern tribes is reported to have said (the story which I read to thousands of students over the years), what you do to one strand in the web, affects it all.

Now, please keep this in mind...

There is no writer out there who is more determined to see America become energy independent than myself--for lots of reasons.

But, the answer to this must not be to simply endorse a drill baby drill, easy fix mentality.

Will you, Mr./Ms. Reader want to eat the fish, shrimp, shellfish, and so forth from such contaminated waters (filled with other human goodies as well--pesticides, dioxins, and such, often also derived from petrochemicals--for starters)?

Will you want to vacation along such coasts?

There has to be a better way to meet our energy needs. Just making the petrochemical industry richer as it increasingly pollutes the natural world that we all depend upon cannot be the answer.

And the answer may never appear...

More likely, we will have to utilize different technologies and energy sources for different needs. And those will seldom come risk-free either. Hydroelectric power should be an ecologist's dream...yet dams threaten the very survival of certain migrating fish populations and other species as well. Ethanol offers an escape from petroleum products to run our cars, yet it too--especially corn-based (the most popular in the United States)--has its own downsides.

The point is, as the U.S. Government backed the oil industry from its inception, it needs to do this with those searching and developing cleaner energy alternatives as well.

Most Americans understand this--regardless of party affiliation.

As a registered Independent, President Obama's approach on these issues are one of the few things I can agree with him about these days--especially when it comes to foreign policy concerns.

If Republicans care about what happens in the 2010 and 2012 elections, they'd best recall an earlier great Republican President's approach to such ecological and environmental concerns a century ago--President Theodore Roosevelt.

An avid outdoorsman, his friendship with John Muir, the founder of one of the leading Conservation organizations in the world, the Sierra Club, helped to preserve and protect America's vast and diverse ecological treasures. Teddy was a key figure in the establishment of the national park system we have today, among other measures he took on behalf of protecting natural America.

Whether Sarah Palin runs in '12 or not, she and others best understand that, while Americans want energy independence, that does not give the Republican Party a green light to do what it has too often done in the past--turn a blind eye to, or actually support, those who degrade the environment in which we grow our food, the very food that we eat, and the air and water that we and our children also ingest which become part of us as well.

While Sarah's husband also worked for the oil companies, he's also a commercial fisherman--one heck of a combination. Indeed, the latter have suffered dearly due to the former.

Her endorsement of the slaughter of wolves while governor for hunting interests was/is inexcusable. No ecologist--the experts on this subject--worth his salt would agree to such a policy. Long before a paying hunting tourist ever knew about caribou in Alaska, wolves and caribou had existed for millennia in their own G-d-given balance.

Having said this, I like Sarah--for many reasons. But if she or any other Republican intends to retake the White House in '12, they better pay close attention to the lesson of Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

A Republican winning the senatorial seat of a Democratic icon, Ted Kennedy, Brown openly admitted that he owed his victory largely to Independent voters like myself. And the answer for most of those folks to the problem addressed here is not drill baby drill.

While it might be tempting to gain energy independence via constantly putting our terrestrial and marine ecosystems at risk to accomplish this (the obvious preferred solution of the fossil fuels folks), other saner solutions cry out to us for the sake of generations to come.



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