Clean Sand-Clear Water
That's what drives over 2 million visitors to Fort Myers Beach every year. We have beautiful accommodations, great entertainment and easy access to lots of fun activities, but the main factor bringing people to our Island are our beautiful, white sand beaches.
Just a couple years ago, those beaches were threatened by the Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 people and spewed over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a three-month period.
Capping that blown well did not end the damage as oil washed ashore and settled in the Gulf, causing yet unknown damage to wildlife and the environment. Just this month, scientists have determined that the deaths of hundreds of dolphins in the northern Gulf over the past two years are tied to the oil spill. While the news cycle has moved on and you won’t find daily headlines about the damage, it’s out there.
US domestic oil production is at its highest level since 1998. Yet there are calls to increase oil production including using deep-water Gulf wells. And with more wells, comes more risk to Gulf beaches.
And not just from U.S. wells. Cuba is actively seeking to drill deepwater wells off their coast. Recent efforts by Repsol, a Spanish oil company that worked with US officials on spill contingency plans did not produce enough oil for them to continue drilling. Other companies are poised to proceed with Cuba’s search for oil, including the Venezuelan state-owned company Petroleos de Venezuela. I can’t see any joint US-Cuba-Venezuela oil spill contingency planning sessions in our future.
With our thoroughly dysfunctional relationship with Cuba, we may not even know about a spill until oil starts washing up on our shores.
We shouldn’t worry, we’re told. BP and other oil companies have much better plans in place now. Sure. They said they had comprehensive plans in place before the Deepwater Horizon spill. As the saying goes, "How’d that work out for ya?”
While the pro-oil crowd urges more drilling everywhere, we face the very real prospect of economic catastrophe here if an oil spill ruins our beaches. Even if the prospect of environmental destruction means nothing to them, they should be able to understand the economic impact of losing our beaches as a tourist destination. Look at the economic hit we took after the BP spill, when our beaches were clear, but the mere rumor of oil on the beach kept visitors away in droves. The whole county suffered. That was a mere hint of what would happen were real oil to start washing up on our beach.
Maybe the first step is to acknowledge that our society is addicted to oil. We use it for transportation, heat, light, packaging, footballs, house paint, yarn, sun glasses -it’s the lynchpin of our economy. It’s so critical to our lives that many people cannot conceive that there might be any real alternatives.
And there might not be a lot of reasonable alternatives right now. Clean energy is expensive compared to oil, no doubt about it. But if we don’t do some serious research into alternatives, they’ll stay really expensive. Fifty years ago, no one dreamed that we’d be communicating via digital media and not with a pen and paper. Hopefully in another fifty years, people will look back and wonder what we were thinking-limiting ourselves to oil-based energy.
This Saturday a group of concerned citizens will gather on our beach and other beaches throughout the world to celebrate Hands Across the Sand and promote clean energy and oppose offshore drilling. Their focus on clean energy combined with reduced consumption is a logical goal.
We know it won’t happen tomorrow, but it’s the direction we should be working toward. Our reliance on fossil fuels can’t last forever; there is a finite supply. Research and development of clean energy sources will benefit all of us, except maybe the oil companies, who will fight like mad to preserve their chokehold on the energy market.
Join Hands Across the Sand this Saturday as they form a line in the sand and share their message of clean energy promotion.
And think about how you can reduce your energy consumption.