Jewish World Review June 12, 2002 / 2 Tamuz, 5762
Debra J. Saunders
YOU'VE got to love Californians. When Bill Clinton
was president, folks happily agreed that Clinton
should pass goodies onto the Golden State because
they helped him win the White House. Friends help
But when President Bush helps his brother, Florida
Gov. Jeb Bush, by having Uncle Sam buy up
Florida's federal offshore-oil leases, Gov. Gray Davis
is indignant that President Bush won't do the same
for California. Davis tried to pin California's electricity
crisis on Bush, and Bush is supposed to respond by
helping Davis out. Ha!
A California deal could drain $2 billion -- as opposed
to Florida's $235 million -- from federal coffers. Bush
is supposed to figure that money is no object if it can
keep California coastlines chichi? Anything to let
Californians be assured that new domestic drilling will
be limited to tacky places where men drive pickups
with rifle racks and chew tobacco.
Davis was incensed last week when Interior
Secretary Gale Norton told him Dubya won't bail out
California because "Florida opposes coastal drilling
and California does not." His Grayness countered
that Californians "vehemently" oppose new offshore
"Vehemently" is accurate to the extent that you can
vehemently oppose drilling while driving alone in an
SUV with an enviro bumper sticker.
Actually, Norton was referring to the fact that, unlike
California, Florida never issued state offshore leases.
In a neat bit of jujitsu, Norton noted that 150 new
California-lease wells were drilled since 1990, but
there were only 114 new federal wells. Norton
spokesman Mark Pfeifle crowed that as a State
Lands Commissioner, lieutenant governor and top
guy, "Mr. Davis has since the early '90s participated
in more drilling than Jed Clampett."
But as Stanley Young of the State Resources
Agency pointed out, what Norton calls new wells are
new bores drilled "through existing holes in the sea
bed." And as Davis spokesman Roger Salazar noted,
Davis had to operate under decades- old leases.
And: Private companies "have a right to drill on their
lease. Otherwise you'd have to compensate them for
All true. Thing is, Salazar's arguments also work for
Bush. America is supposed to honor property rights.
It's not legal to renege on a lease; so it's expensive if
you want out.
Joining the circus, Davis' GOP challenger, Bill
Simon, says he would ban new offshore drilling.
Simon even hit Davis for approving drilling. (Simon
spokesman Jeff Flint explained, "Gray Davis can't
have it both ways. He can't portray himself as the
defender of the coast at the same time he is taking
(money) from oil companies and expanding drilling off
Simon has obviously figured out what voters want to
hear: Drilling bad.
And don't want to hear: That California is the "do as
we say not as we do" state. According to the state
Energy Commission, California consumes twice as
much gasoline as it produces.
Salazar mused that if Gray's last name were Bush,
there would be a different ending. Yet Salazar well
knows -- he worked on the Al Gore presidential
campaign -- the Clinton administration could have
stepped in, checkbook in hand, but didn't.
So why should Bush pony up? Said Young, "The
coast of California generates a great deal of revenue,
and a great deal of the California economy is
dependent on the health of its coastal resources."
Good grief, the worst that happens is that U.S.
taxpayers save $2 bil and oil companies exercise a
mere 36 leases off California's mid-coast. That
doesn't mean wall-to-wall oil derricks lining beaches
from Chula Vista to Crescent City. It means a few
industrial jewels glittering in the seascape. Cruise
some night down a sweet stretch of the Pacific Coast
Highway and you'll see them, twinkling like happy
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate