A presidential solution to keep offshore drilling off Florida's waters

Posted January 10, 2018 2:19 p.m. EST

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- I've figured out a way to keep President Donald Trump from opening up oil drilling off Florida's beaches.

First, a little history.

You'd be hard-pressed to find Floridians who wish we had oil drilling offshore.

Drilling for oil within visual distance of Florida's beaches is so unpopular that politicians from both parties are against it.

Even Gov. Rick Scott. Although, belatedly for him.

In 2010, when President Barack Obama called for extending a moratorium on oil drilling off Florida's shores, Scott objected.

"Let's figure out how we can do it safely because we cannot afford to mess up our beaches or our economy," Scott said at the time. "But I believe (with) the ingenuity of Americans, we will come up with a way to do that."

Scott is no longer talking about American ingenuity finding a safe way to drill for oil off Florida's beaches.

He's in line with Florida's two senators and just about every other state political leader in Florida who are objecting to Trump's newly announced America First Offshore Energy Policy, which opens the door to a vast expansion of offshore oil leases.

"Our country is blessed with incredible natural resources, including abundant offshore oil and natural gas resources, but the federal government has kept 94 percent of these offshore areas closed for exploration and production," Trump said during a signing ceremony at the White House last week. "This deprives our country of potentially thousands and thousands of jobs and billions in wealth."

Scott has asked Trump's Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to meet "to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration."

Scott, who may have Senate ambitions once he is term-limited this year in Tallahassee, is trying out the role of environmental evangelist.

"My top priority is to ensure that Florida's natural resources are protected, which is why I proposed $1.7 billion for the environment in this year's budget," he said in a statement.

And why would Trump be in favor of drilling off Florida?

After all, presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016 was against oil drilling off Florida.

"It would be a little bit of a shame," Trump told the Tampa Bay Times then, "because there's so much fracking, and there's so much oil that we have now that we never thought possible."

But that was before he picked the head of ExxonMobil to be America's secretary of state, and before he signed a tax bill that gave a bonanza of tax breaks to big oil companies, including retaining the option to expense intangible drilling costs, a new provision to expense the full cost of new investments for the next five years, a repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax, a one-time lower rate for repatriation of overseas profits, and a lowering of the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent.

Those corporate tax cuts were supposed to create the "thousands and thousands" of jobs. Now, they're not enough? Now, we have to have drilling all over the Gulf of Mexico and along America's Atlantic coast, too?

Something needs to be done to get Trump to see things differently. If only he had a personal stake in this ... Wait a minute, he does.

That's the solution. It's not Florida's beaches that will be degraded. It's Trump's beach.

Make it all about him.

Florida lawmakers need to band together to demand that if Florida gets offshore drilling, the first offshore derrick goes directly east of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.

That will get Trump's attention. When he first moved there, he wanted the county to move Palm Beach International Airport because he didn't like having his mansion in the flight path.

Imagine what being in the tide path of oil tar balls will do.

As a side note, that would be a great name for a charity ball at Mar-a-Lago once there's offshore drilling nearby.

The Tar Ball.

Wear black. Careful stepping over that big pipe, ladies and gentlemen.

Frank Cerabino writes for The Palm Beach Post. Email: fcerabino(at)pbpost.com.

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