Part 1 of 2: The well from hell is changing our lives

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Forgive me for getting personal. Yesterday, my wife (Kay) and I headed our Pursuit out about 40 miles into the Gulf of Mexico from St. Petersburg. As yet untouched by the oil, the Gulf waters and sky were that spectacular clear blue, one of the powerful reasons we live in Florida. What’s more, we were catching some great fish – Grouper and Amberjack, even a big Barracuda. It was one of those wonderful days aboard the “Special Kay” – you know, the kind that reinforces your love for boating.

But something happened while we were out there. We started talking about the BP “well from hell" - this summer of oil that is literally destroying a way of life for so many others, people and businesses, with whom we share the Gulf. We soon found ourselves lamenting what’s happening to our fellow boaters and fishermen just a few hundred miles north of our position. And, it’s not just the horror of the physical damage. No, we could imagine the depression and righteous anger of families who see their marine businesses threatened, their customer’s boats sitting idle, confusion over who’s even in charge and the red tape to get help, if any. 

Maybe it’s because we were sitting out there, surrounded by the beauty of a spot to which oil may soon arrive, that we could grasp how our fellow boaters and boating industry members’ entire way of life is being ripped apart. We talked about people whose lifestyles are based on the Gulf, as is ours now. The things they do. The things they eat. The things they love. Who they are. The reason for living there – all interrupted, if not taken away.

Inevitably, Kay asked the big question: “Besides stopping the spill, what should be done?”

I said, I’m no expert, but I have some strong feelings. For example, it is understandable that all this has given rise to demands for an end to offshore drilling. Environmentalists predicted this could happen. Drilling foes have ammunition. Moreover, it’s with good reason that our trust in the oil industry and government regulators has tanked. The Obama administration is now in court trying to temporarily halt deep-water drilling. That seems reasonable, but not logical in the bigger picture.

There are more than 4,100 oil wells throughout the Gulf. While the BP spill is unprecedented, offshore drilling has been safely happening for decades without disasters. And, this one shouldn’t have happened, either. But, to halt drilling now will only kill jobs for literally thousands of workers on the rigs, supply boats, equipment manufacturers and more. Selfishly, it’s safe to assume many of those workers are boaters and anglers and are also customers of boat dealers and manufacturers around the Gulf Coast.

The current environmental impact aside (no intention to diminish its terrible effect) for a moment, about 32 percent of our nation’s oil is coming from the Gulf. Those who say the BP catastrophe justifies stopping drilling and replacing it with alternative energy sources, like solar, wind, nuclear, etc., are wrong, just unrealistic. Even in the best case scenario, alternative energy will only be able to deliver 11 percent of our energy needs by 2020. For the boating industry, not only do we build our boats with petroleum-derived materials, we need oil to run our products. In fact, oil is in our DNA -- most people would agree that affordable and abundant supplies are essential elements of the nation’s prosperity,

So, there must be a better answer coming out of all this agony.

Look for part two of the “well from hell” here on Thursday. ?

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