Friday, February 01, 2013

Fish and FPL: going, going ... going ... by gimleteye

If you go out to a Miami restaurant and order fish, the odds are that what you eat was caught nowhere near Florida. It's not exactly news that fisheries -- once imagined to be an unending food source for future generations -- are collapsing. The haul out of Biscayne Bay was once magnificent. Now, it's a few grunts and small snapper where you can find them.

Commercial fishermen have not exactly proven capable custodians of the public commons. It took a decadal struggle to ban the use of gill nets in Florida waters. Finally, the food chain has a chance to recover. And we will all need that recovery.

This week, fisheries managers for the federal government took the long anticipated step of closing down the historic cod fishery on Georges Bank. Fishermen are up in arms. Indeed the failure to manage commercial catches is putting fishermen out of business around the world.

All over the Mediterranean, fish is often priced by the gram at local markets. In one harbor after another, fishing boats are decorated for tourism duty. The fish are going, going... gone.

Here are a couple of photos I took this evening, at the Chinese marketplace in Bangkok. It's a teeming, vibrant place. Restaurants enthusiastically advertise shark-fin soup. No one in Bangkok has gotten the memo, apparently, that overfishing has decimated shark species. These photos are sad, sobering reminders that we are failing the most basic elements of stewardship for the natural systems that sustain us. The sharks, the cod, the snapper and grouper ... and here comes FPL, arguably the biggest shark of all.

The News Service of Florida reports,
"The president of Florida Power & Light made clear (last) Thursday that his company will fight legislative attempts to repeal a controversial law that has allowed utilities to collect hundreds of millions of dollars from customers for nuclear-power projects.

Eric Silagy said in an interview that the 2006 law has allowed FPL to upgrade already-existing nuclear plants in Miami-Dade and St. Lucie counties, along with taking steps toward possibly building two new reactors. He said the upgrades, for example, already are saving millions of dollars a month that otherwise would need to go toward buying fuel for generating electricity at other power plants.

Silagy said he thinks the law "should be celebrated, not repealed, because it's worked."

Two outspoken critics of the law, Reps. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, and Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, have filed a bill to try to repeal it during the legislative session that starts in March. Such attempts have failed in the past, but The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, indicated he is open to possible revisions.

FPL and Progress Energy Florida have used the law in recent years to get approval from the state Public Service Commission to pass along nuclear-project costs to customers. While the amounts vary each year, FPL is expected to collect about $151 million this year from customers, while Progress will collect about $143 million."

We wrote scathingly of FPL's manipulation of the Miami-Dade County Commission only a few weeks ago, as FPL successfully persuaded the county to surrender any leverage it might have in the siting of two new nuclear reactors, to cost nearly $30 billion, in a region that is considered to be the most vulnerable in the nation, from the impacts of sea level rise.

It is tragic that FPL -- a key player in the nation's energy economy -- has diverted its own considerable skills and attention and those of environmentalists and civic activists through early cost recovery. This is not a successful program. It is only delivering higher profits to executives whose annual compensation is tied to performance.

What do these two phenomenon have in common: collapsing fisheries and the hundreds of millions that FPL is using to misallocate resources and send cash-strapped environmental groups on exceedingly costly diversions?

They both stand for mankind deploying immense power, skills and intelligence in defending unreasonable courses of action for profit. They also show how capturing regulators who are supposed to look out for the public interest, in the long run harms their businesses. FPL is far, far from being in the same situation as commercial fishermen who have literally put themselves out of business. But both have persuaded themselves that bigger scale, bigger expansion of capital is the way to secure their future.

With climate change, that bet is off. ... we will rue the day, we let this behavior be standard procedure for exploitation of the systems we need to survive.

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