Last night I attended the “From Crisis to Solutions” meeting in St. Petersburg at the Palladium Theatre. It was a full house for sure. Even several Senators and Congressional Leaders were on hand. Cathy Castor, who is on the energy commerce commission in Washington DC, was there and then as the meeting was starting, she was off to another meeting. That was my first clue that maybe this was not going to be the meeting that was in my mind. You know the one about Solutions!
It was well choreographed and even included the speech from President OBama. The emcee Susan Glickman was impressive, articulate and very prepared. She introduced the panel guests kept the meeting on task, at a very good pace and didn’t bore us.
The first panel was worth hearing but new content was scarce. As a concerned citizen I have been scouring daily to glean any new morsels of news on this crisis. Maybe this is why I am so disappointed. Dr. William Hogarth, who is the Dean from the College of Marine Science at USF, was the 1st speaker. He is a good ol boy from VerGineea (Virginia) and talked with a slow southern mush mouth drawl. Ok, he heads the department of the scientists lookingslick who are gathering data on the slick itself. They have taken 3 boat trips through the area collecting information on the underwater density and size of the spill. Nothing new here. We already know this. Yep, there is a slick and it is deep and the Professor showed us plenty of complicated graphs to verify this. The way he handled his presentation left me, the layperson, wondering if he is actually engaged in this research. Next!
The person sitting next to the department head was a scientist who had been tracking the spill since day one using satellites. His presentation was much more interesting. Even though English is not his 1st language he was gracious and talked slow enough so we could understand him. He made a wonderful statement for those of us in the Tampa Bay Area. “The oil slick is not near us and at present it will not hit our shores.” In fact, it is currently 200 miles away from our shores.
The slick is only 5 miles from the coast of Cuba. Cuba will get hit before us. It’s natures’ way of honoring the late John F. Kennedy. So if you are thinking of taking a really cheap beach vacation in Florida; Tampa Bay is the place to come for great deals!
Then came Dan Beard former Executive and retired Geophysical Engineer from Exxon. Talk about a guy with experience. We were entranced with his presentation of the technical aspects of the oil spill. He showed us in detail what was happening at the time of the accident. He reported what was done incorrectly and then he gave a real pearl of wisdom. He told us to look at the spill that occurred in Saudi in 1991 if we wanted a close comparison to discover solutions for our current situation. The conditions are similar and 10 times the oil was spilled. And it was cleaned up in 6 months.
After Mr. Exxon, we heard from a lady about the effects of oil on the species in the gulf. I am sorry, I guess I was distracted. Her speech or presentation was not compelling enough to even remember or maybe my thoughts were too preoccupied with Mr. Exxon’s presentation that I was unable to focus. I think I do remember her saying that the population of a certain species was in peril and recently taken off the soon to be extinct list. Was it the Pelican or the Sperm Whale? Shoot, guess this is why I am not a reporter. Sorry.
This panel was completed with the talk from D.T. Minich, Executive Director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater which is the official destination management organization for Pinellas County. Now, this guy should be in politics. He was articulate, compelling and interesting. He told us that the vacancy rates are at between 20 and 30%. People are being laid off and Pinellas County’s tourism industry is a $6 billion industry. He noted that BP might only be liable for 75 million because of the caps on law suits in our state. He also had researched the effects of Exxon Valdez on Alaska’s Tourism. It was devastating and the impact lasted 5 years. We have no oil on our beaches. Yet, the perception of the world is that we are covered in oil. That is why if you came to Tampa Bay this summer your vacation would be wonderful and cheap.
Then came the next panel which I call the “slick”. All these people represented different media venues; print, radio and TV. Why on earth were they there? They are entertainers! We don’t care what they have to say because most of the time it is bunk anyway. They earn their living by embellishing or slanting the truth so that it will sell. I was truly appalled. Only one brought up an interesting point. She said that 35000 journalists had lost their jobs in the last two years. All the specialists and truly seasoned reporters were let go. So in addition, to not having enough coverage of this event the news we were getting was being manipulated and staged. To the point that BP was keeping journalists away from severely hit places by getting cooperation from law enforcement restricting any access.
Then the talk from this group turned into a whine fest about their industry. We Don’t Care! What was really annoying was the guy with buck teeth that kept frothing, flailing and spitting when he screamed into his mike. His contribution was nil. This part of the night was a complete waste of time.
After this panel came the televised short speech from the President. It is obvious that he is trying to let the public know that he plans to keep on top of this disaster and not make the mistakes that happened during Exxon Valdez. The problem is that he didn’t explain to the American people where the perspective originated from. It came from Exxon Valdez. There were $7 Billion in claims against Exxon Valdez. As soon as the story went cold Exxon stalled the payout with law suits which have lasted 17 years. No Money for 17 Years. Then they managed to negotiate the numbers down to $500 million. So the President is trying to get the pot of money up front.
The final panel was to talk about solutions. This is why I attended this meeting. I was really looking forward to this segment. The only problem is they never discussed any solutions!
Instead, one speaker discussed the costs and ecological impact of drilling for oil near the shorelines of Louisiana. No solutions there.Then another person talked about the American dependency on fossil fuels and how we need to change. No kidding. Finally, a California lawyer advised us all on the challenges of litigation. This might be close to being a solution. However, I want to know how to clean up the oil.