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Diane Roberts: Florida's presidential hopefuls have forgotten about Deepwater Horizon

OCCUPIED TALLAHASSEE – The not-remotely-special special session limps along, costing taxpayers about $75,000 a day. The bars in Tallahassee are making out pretty well. The rest of us, not so much.

The Senate wants to expand Medicaid, but can’t call it “Medicaid,” because, you know, Obama. The House won’t call it anything other than “Medicaid!” because, you know, Obama. The Reps say it’s a “failed program.” Which it isn’t.

More than 850,000 Floridians will go without health insurance because these guys are happy for poor people to suffer. If God liked poor people, they wouldn’t be poor, right?

Where’s Florida’s alleged governor? Battling in the capitol trenches, demonstrating leadership, bringing warring legislative leaders together so that the state can go forward?

Aw, hell no. The critter’s been at Disney World, at an “economic summit,” preening himself in front of the presidential campaign second string Messrs Jindal, Walker, Perry, Christie – and one first-stringer, Scott’s mansion predecessor John Ellis Bush.

Mickey Mouse was also in attendance.

Meanwhile, as we all stare at the Legislature in despair and disbelief, over in the far right-hand corner, Marco Rubio is wrapping his little arms around the same “Drill, Baby, Drill” agenda which made Sarah Palin such a beloved figure in American politics.

Marcocito insists that because, “I’m not a scientist, man,” he doesn’t know how old the earth is, or whether climate change is real, yet he’s somehow qualified to head the Senate subcommittee on oceans, the atmosphere and fisheries. And he’s confident parking oil wells almost within sight of Florida beaches is a great idea.

A Louisiana senator, who’s either malicious or clueless (though he could be both), wants to strip away the restrictions on drilling near our coasts, also known as the thing which saved Florida from the most horrible effects of the 2010 BP spill. You remember the spill: the worst in U.S. history? The one which is still harming sea grasses, fish and other marine life throughout the Gulf of Mexico?

Deepwater Horizon was about 50 miles from the Louisiana shore. Imagine if those wells had been 50 miles off Walton, Okaloosa, Escambia and Bay counties instead of Louisiana. Environmental Armageddon. Economic meltdown.

Maybe worse: the Floridan Aquifer extends out into the Gulf, as well as the Atlantic. Drill in the wrong place and you’ve just admitted a whole lot of salt water into our major drinking water source.

Drill, Baby, drillers insist that Florida could maybe make $1.6 billion over ten years. That sounds like a lot of large until you consider what it might cost to replace our natural source of fresh water with a desalination plant or three ($1 billion is about average for a good one), plus clean-up if there’s a spill (Deepwater Horizon is clocking in at $16 billion – so far), not to mention the carbon footprint.

Makes $160 million a year look paltry.

Nevertheless, some Republicans, including Marcocito and Jeb Bush (who used to kind of pretend he was anti-drilling, back when that would help him get re-elected) don’t have a problem with us endangering our tourist economy, our wildlife, our health, and our drinking water to enrich BP, Shell, Exxon, the Koch Bros. and the rest of the whole sick extractive industry crew.

Sen. Bill Nelson, not normally given to hissy fit-pitching, is hollering that Florida is “under siege” from Big Oil. He’s trying to defend the state from the drill-vandals who either don’t understand that Florida is already suffering the effects of climate change with flooding, saltwater intrusion, and rising sea levels, or don’t care. Hey, they’ll be dead by the time the ca-ca really hits the fan. In the meantime, rape and pillage for profit!

Some Republicans actually get this: Pinellas County’s own Rep. David Jolly, along with Democrat Rep. Gwen Graham (daughter of the more famous Bob) from Tallahassee, are sponsoring legislation to counter the drill-fanciers and extend the ban on drilling close to Florida until 2027.

At which time we will have either got serious about alternative energy sources – geothermal, sun, water, wind – or be thinking about colonizing Mars.

Now if only the governor and the state legislature would start paying attention to the fight between pro-polluters, two of whom are frontrunners for the Republican presidential nomination, and defenders of Florida.

But the governor’s too busy increasing his own political clout at the expense of actually, you know, governing. And the Legislature’s occupied with arguing over who “deserves” decent healthcare here in a rich state in the richest nation on earth.

I’d compare them all to hogs trampling each other for slops, except that hogs are rather dignified creatures known to be quite intelligent

Diane Roberts teaches at Florida State University. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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Diane Roberts teaches at Florida State University. Her latest book, “Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America,” will be out in paperback in the fall.

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