Sometimes NPR is pretty darn slick (as in oil that is). This morning I heard their piece on the debates around offshore drilling for oil and gas along the Gulf Coast states. As the report progressed, it seemed all right: a range of comments from people holding different views on whether or not Florida should allow offshore drilling. But then it struck me as curious that in Debbie Elliott's report the only significant challenge she raised was to an opponent of drilling offshore. She was interviewing Sandy Johnston, executive director of the Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce, who said, "We have people coming from all over the world to see this. Why even take a chance?" Elliott retorts, "We're sitting here on the front porch of your visitor information center and we're watching the traffic come in. People have to pay for gas to drive to get here. Do you not think that at some point the trade off is worth it when people can no longer afford to come here?"
That was odd, given that no one else in her report was put on the defensive with such a direct question. But the real zinger came right at the end. After giving a lot of airtime to the pro-drilling Frances Coleman, editorial page editor of the Mobile Press Register, Elliot sums up her views and the report with, "So when she hears her cross border neighbors whining about the price at the pump her response: Well bless their hearts." Whining? That's interesting...seems like somebody else was recently just accusing the public of whining...now who could that be?
The other major problem with Elliot's story is how it is framed completely as an economic issue. Will "unsightly" drilling negative affect the tourism business in Florida, and if so, is it worth it given the energy and financial gains that might come from drilling. There was absolutely nothing of substance offered regarding the environmental risks and impact of offshore drilling. That is odd, given that there are significant impacts and risks (even from natural gas drilling). Furthermore, there was no input from environmentalists, even though there are local environmental activists available for input. This lack of the environmental aspect is striking, given that even such bland outlets as USA Today include the environmental angle as a substantive part of their coverage.
Let's just say, this NPR report seems a bit rigged (oil that is) from the start.