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Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published
Feb 3, 2006

CANNED

Thereís nothing like flying over the worldís biggest parking lot to help you focus on America ís addiction to oil. I drew that conclusion over twenty years ago flying into Orlando and every trip back to Florida brings me the same sensation. So, I was pleased to hear President Bush channeling Jimmy Carter last night in his State of the Union Address when he admitted the addiction.

Up to now George has been more inclined to fuel our addiction with generous tax deductions for SUVís than curb it with 55 MPH speed limits but it was nice to hear his concern. Of course, he did raise the subject of hydrogen fueled cars in his 2003 SOTU Address but he kind of dropped the ball on that idea.

All that Florida pavement, itself a major petroleum distillate, keeps expanding. When my Father-in-Lawís home was built a hundred miles north of Miami , twenty-five years ago, Jupiter was still pretty rural. Today the last patch of undeveloped soil across from his house has been leveled as contractors turn from hurricane repair back to housing development.

Leaving for church with him on a Sunday gave me a sense for how many cars his neighbors owned. Home from their weekday commutes each house averaged three vehicles per driveway. Because the garages were all closed there could have been even more cars hidden away.

At least twice during my two week visit to the Sunshine State I was greeted by Floridians with a kind of mantra about how happy they were to welcome 1000 of us outsiders to the state everyday. Even the recent hurricanes have failed to put a dent in the stateís in-migration. Why, I saw Hispanic day laborers for the first time in Jupiter lining up for black market jobs.

Since a third of Florida lies less than twenty feet above sea level what hasnít blown down in a hurricane might soon be flooded if global warming melts Greenlandís Ice Sheet. Should this happen future visitors could visit Disneyland in Orlando without having a three hour drive to the beach. Minnesotans might start greeting Floridians with a similar welcome about the coastal refugees returning north.

Listen to me kvetch. Who am I kidding? I learned a long time ago, around the time of the first Earth Day, that environmental fear mongering was a tough sell politically. In 1972 as I was becoming a Republican I also campaigned for a neighbor who was running for the legislature as a Democrat. David Cummiskey, a couple years my senior, had skipped college politics and gotten elected to the Mankato City Council. Shortly thereafter Dave became a state legislator and shared a hotel room in St. Paul with Duluth ís newly elected Mike Jaros.

I discovered Mikeís connection to Dave a few years later in 1976 after I filed to run against Jaros. I called Mike up after I filed against him and we had a friendly cup of coffee at Perkins. (That was in the innocent days before it was necessary to organize a civility project to make politicians behave like adults). Mike and I shook our heads together sadly over the grim fate that befell Dave.

Dave was intent on cleaning up the environment by ending the casual tossing of pop cans out of car windows. Noting that aluminum was easily recyclable Cummiskey introduced legislation to put a small deposit on aluminum cans much as Iowa has since done. All hell broke lose. Mankato was the home of the Continental Can Company and its union turned on Dave. Heeding Managementís warning that aluminum can deposits would put the company at a disadvantage with plastic and glass container manufacturers the union set out to unseat Dave and succeeded.

Perhaps the union should have been more worried about threats other than the environmental movement. I just ran a Google search on Mankato ís Continental Can but could find no contemporary reference to it.

I can appreciate President Bushís frustration as the need for oil rises along with its price. It doesnít help that his own brother Jeb , Florida ís Governor, has been resisting Federal pressure to explore for oil off the Florida coast. Whatís a President to do? Might as well go green.

Meanwhile the petroleum addiction continues unabated and Florida is still being paved over. Tiger Woods just bought some property on a barrier island not far from my Father-in-law and last year Donald Trump got married on his nearby estate. I canít imagine that either of these new Floridians would want their ocean views blighted by Texas sized oil rigs. Maybe the President could talk them both into buying a hydrogen car.

Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com