Friday, October 11, 2013

NPR: "Whatever happened to the deal to save the Everglades?" ... by gimleteye

There is a key fact that is missing from the NPR report yesterday, "Whatever Happened to the Deal to Save the Everglades?" The story concerns the deal made by then Governor Charlie Crist to purchase more than 150,000 acres of land blocking the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee south, towards the Everglades. The cost was high, more than $1.4 billion at the time, but many environmentalists (myself, included) believe that any steps to lessen the impact of Big Sugar on the Everglades and on our democracy are worth the price.

Putting clean water at the right times of the year has been the Holy Grail for Floridians and environmentalists ever since sugarcane began to be grown south of the Lake.

The fact missing from the NPR report is that for the US Sugar deal to work -- and restore water flow capacity through the central Everglades -- required the purchase or trade for central parcels owned by its nominal competitors, the Fanjul billionaires of Coral Gables and Palm Beach.

The only unassailable result of the US Sugar deal was to propel that Marco Rubio to the US Senate and to the first ranks of GOP leadership.

Sugar is a heavily subsidized commodity that benefits a few billionaires at the expense of the entire state. The addition of phosphorous and nitrogen to speed the growth of sugar -- combined with the recruitment of methyl mercury downstream of its pollution -- is responsible for the collapse of remnant Everglades habitats.

The failure of the US Sugar deal is constantly spun by sugar's paid-for mouthpieces in the media. (In the past, Joanna Wragg carried the torch for sugar. Wragg had been a senior editor at the Miami Herald for many years. These days, sugar's POV is on-demand service by Nancy Smith for Sunshine State News.)

The stated objection to the US Sugar purchase was first, its cost and second, that putting more water into the central Everglades is unworkable. But the first was a red herring then, as it is today. The money has always been available; either through the water management district or through the state. The second point -- that more water storage in the central Everglades is unworkable -- is often repeated by Big Sugar, ignoring the inevitability of geography.

Big Sugar is fiercely opposed to any tranche of public funding that could take their lands off the table and assents only to the least extent possible. Any work-around is acceptable, so long as it is not their money.

The billionaire Fanjuls were apparently furious with Crist for initiating a deal with US Sugar without obtaining their blessing. The Fanjuls not only withheld cooperation, they funneled huge amounts of campaign cash to Rubio; Crist's opponent in the 2008 US Senate race.

So, why did US Sugar put its lands on the table in the first place? Was the US Sugar deal was a set-up, from the first?

It makes sense that Big Sugar would strive to flush out and then to ruin the political fortunes of any and all appointees or politicians opposed to its control of the levers of power. It is the only interpretation that makes sense. It is also an interpretation that has never been examined by the mainstream press.

1 comment:

Prem Lee Barbosa said...

have you written anything about the subsidies the sugar industry gets? I'm very interested in the corporate-welfare aspect of this "right wing" slight of hands.