Drilling In the Everglades


Rep. Allen West (R-FL) thinks presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann made “an incredible faux pas” recently, and he plans to “straighten her out” the next time he sees her.  Democrat congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida went much further, calling Bachmann’s proposal “unthinkable, reckless, and irresponsible.”  A somewhat more muted Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) said the proposal was “not a wise thing to do.” 

What did Bachmann propose?  As reported in the Palm Beach Post:

“The United States needs to be less dependent on foreign sources of energy and more dependent upon American resourcefulness,” Bachmann told the Associated Press in a Sunday interview. “Whether that is in the Everglades, or whether that is in the eastern Gulf region, or whether that’s in North Dakota, we need to go where the energy is. Of course it needs to be done responsibly. If we can’t responsibly access energy in the Everglades then we shouldn’t do it.”

She stood by these remarks during a campaign trip through South Florida:

“God has so blessed the United States with energy resources,” she told reporters in Naples. “The problem has been the federal government has locked up America’s energy resources. We can access these resources responsibly. That’s what we need to do. And the determination needs to be made: Can we responsibly access these resources? If we can’t do it without causing environmental degradation, then we can’t unlock them in certain regions. But if we can do this responsibly, we should.”

Fox News notes that the government does have drilling rights in the Everglades:

In 2002, the federal government at the urging of President George W. Bush bought back oil and gas drilling rights in the Everglades for $120 million. Bachmann, who wants to get rid of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, said she would rely on experts to determine whether drilling can be done without harming the environment.

“No one wants to hurt or contaminate the earth. … We don’t want to harm our water, our ecosystems or the air. That is a minimum bar,” she said.

“From there, though, that doesn’t mean that the two have to be mutually exclusive. We can protect the environment and do so responsibly, but we can also protect the environment and not kill jobs in America and not deny ourselves access to the energy resources that America’s been so blessed with.”

The principle objection to Everglades drilling is Florida’s touchy water supply.  About a third of the state’s fresh water comes out of the Everglades.  There are also concerns about Everglades wildlife, including a sizable number of endangered species, and Florida’s fishing and tourism economies are tied into the area.

Perhaps these are insurmountable obstacles to drilling.  The problem is that every negative response to Bachmann’s proposal seems to degenerate into shrieking hysteria about strip-mining the Earth.  We should reject the notion that we must choose between ravaging North America into a toxic moonscape, or gracefully accepting economic decline.  Why isn’t this something we can talk about rationally?  That’s all Bachmann said she wants to do. 

I happen to live quite near the Everglades, and I’m prepared to believe they should be eternally off-limits to drilling… provided that case is made with facts and reason.  Has our oil extraction technology reached the point where oil resources in sensitive areas can be explored without harming wildlife or the water supply?  I’d like to know the answer to that question.  I strongly advise Americans concerned with prosperity and our quality of life to recoil from people who scream that merely asking the question violates some kind of religious edict.

We’re reaching a major crisis point between environmentalism and industry.  It’s been a long time coming.  Too much of the debate is shrouded in illusions that we can’t afford any more.  Too much has been declared “unthinkable” by hysterics and political opportunists like Wasserman-Schultz.  We need to start thinking about these issues.

One of the reasons Bachmann got hammered so quickly for her proposal is that she’s a noted opponent of what she very accurately describes as the “job-killing EPA.”  That makes her a presumptive agent of Mordor in the eyes of liberals, and guarantees hyperactive over-reaction to any environmentally sensitive topic she might raise.  But she doesn’t advocate the eradication of all environmental standards – she wants to eliminate the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and recognize the rights of states to “develop their own environmental protections and regulations, as they all have.” 

Declaring her an ecological assassin because she wants to shut down a clearly out-of-control federal agency is exactly the kind of collectivist assumption that built our collapsing, utterly bankrupt mega-government.  Once again, this is something we should discuss rationally.  The EPA has sailed far beyond the safe harbor of presumed competence and necessity.

The Palm Beach Post reports that as Bachmann boarded her campaign bus in Miami, “a man shouted ‘No drilling in my backyard’ and a woman responded ‘We need jobs – drill, baby, drill.’”  That is a binary choice: if we want job growth and energy independence, we’re going to have to drill in someone’s “backyard.”  The current Administration has wasted trillions of our dollars proving that government-created “green jobs” are an utter scam and abject failure.  That’s another illusion we must discard before we can have the reasoned discussion about energy policy that we vitally need.