Make us your home page
Instagram
The Why's Guy

If offshore drilling is a must, make it benefit us

Floridians are focused on the wrong question when it comes to drilling for oil and gas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Forget the "if."

We're inching closer to drilling each day.

The president wants it.

The governor wants it.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain is onboard.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is interested.

In some polls, 70 percent of the American people want it.

About 60 percent of Floridians are in favor of it.

The question we need to answer is: What will we do with the windfall?

In March, an auction of drilling leases in the central gulf drew about $3.7-billion in bids. The oil-producing states along the gulf split 37.5 percent of the take — about $1.39-billion — with shares determined in part by proximity to the leased parcels.

So how much could we collect? The area being targeted is closest to Florida, and it's larger than the parcels offered in March.

A half a billion? No sweat.

A billion? Maybe.

Do we want our legislators rolling in that dough?

No.

Federal law limits how the money can be spent. Hurricane protection is on the list.

One billion dollars could provide $2,000 grants to 500,000 Florida homeowners to help buy hurricane shutters.

But let's push the envelope: Is insurance hurricane protection? (The answer is likely no, but our Legislature has proved adept at shifting funds around. Remember the lottery and schools?)

How much would $1-billion help Citizens Property Insurance Corp.? It would have wiped out more than half the deficit Citizens racked up in the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons. Floridians are "helping" to pay off that debt through surcharges on insurance policies.

But why continue a policy that has all of us helping to insure the state's highest-risk properties?

Let's be bold and consider whether the windfall could help launch a program such as the Florida Reinsurance Corp. that has been proposed by a group from St. Petersburg. All Floridians would get hurricane insurance from the new entity. Let it sell fire and theft policies, too.

The idea scares opponents of "big government." In 2006, then-Gov. Jeb Bush said the thought of a state-run insurance program selling policies directly to Floridians gave him the "heebie-jeebies." He preferred making it easier for new insurance companies to enter the Florida market to boost competition.

What should give us the heebie-jeebies is that when he said that, Citizens was already the largest wind insurance company in the state. What should make us shudder is the idea that those new insurance companies will simply fold if a big storm hits — leaving homeowners anything but high and dry.

Even if you believe our Legislature wants to help, it's hard to believe anything from Tallahassee will help. Insurance companies have better lawyers, accountants and consultants than the Legislature who are paid to find profitable alternatives.

It's time to be decisive. We can't wait around hoping the federal government starts a national catastrophe fund. If we must accept gulf drilling, let's make it work for us.

Maybe showing we're serious will entice insurance companies to help find a compromise that works.

But I'm willing to bet that I'll be driving a fuel-cell-powered car long before that happens.

Times staff writer Kyle Kreiger rants about the serious and silly with one question in mind: Why? Contact him at kreiger@sptimes.com.

If offshore drilling is a must, make it benefit us 08/06/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 3:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: No more VinikVille as Water Street Tampa finally arrives

    Business

    Adios, VinikVille! Hello Water Street Tampa.

    An aerial rendering of the $3 billion redevelopment project that Jeff Vinik and Strategic Property Partners plan on 50-plus acres around Amalie Arena.
[Rendering courtesy of Strategic Property Partners]
  2. Unlicensed contractor accused of faking death triggers policy change at Pinellas construction licensing board

    Local Government

    The unlicensed contractor accused of faking his death to avoid angry homeowners has triggered an immediate change in policy at the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena

    Tourism

    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  4. Rick Scott appoints longtime ally Jimmy Patronis as Florida CFO

    State Roundup
    Rick Scott appoints Jimmy Patronis (background) as CFO. [STEVE BOUSQUET | Tampa Bay Times]
  5. Local gas prices plummet as Fourth of July holiday travel approaches

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Local gas prices are enjoying an unseasonal dip around the $2 mark just in time for the hectic Fourth of July holiday travel weekend.

    The price of regular unleaded gasoline has dropped to $1.99 at a Rally station on Pasadena Ave. South and Gulfport Boulevard South, South Pasadena.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]