|National Energy Policy Falls Hard on Chesapeake
Generally, I leave eloquent critiques about the ills of modern society to my much wiser colleague whose column runs opposite this page. After all, his decades covering the outdoors affords him the long perspective necessary for such things. However
My week started fine as I fished the Susquehanna Flats and prepared for a trout trip to the Shenandoah River later in May. Even when I was cut off biking to work by one of those monstrosities posing as a family vehicle, I wasn't moved to rail against our country's energy and transportation dilemmas.
But after reading Vice President Dick Cheney's admission that fossil fuels would remain our energy primary source for "years down the road," I thought about what this might mean to our country's water and air quality and, subsequently, the quality of life in Chesapeake Country. Speaking in Toronto, Chaney, point man on President Bush's energy strategy team, called on the U.S. to increase fossil fuel supply rather than to increase conservation. This push to find new domestic fuel sources means exploiting wilderness such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Couple our national leadership's shortsighted strategy with a new report by the American Lung Association that says ozone pollution in the Washington-Baltimore area ranks seventh worst nationally, and this spells trouble for Bay restoration efforts. Anne Arundel County ranks 10th among almost 400 U.S. counties that received an F for ozone pollution.
An EPA study in 1997 revealed that utilities and vehicles contribute a combined 78 percent of the airborne nitrogen in the Bay region. We know nutrient pollution fuels algae blooms, which prevents sunlight from reaching underwater grasses and robs the water of oxygen. We also know our grasses sit at about 10 percent of historic acreage, estimated to be about 600,000 acres. And it is well documented that densities of blue crabs are about 30 times greater in vegetated areas than in barren areas. The connection to air pollution and the Bay's health is clear.
But what really got my ire up was Cheney's contention that "conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."
Excuse me? I thought our government was supposed to represent the best of our intentions? Are the two mutually exclusive?
A healthy Bay means making changes in how we live. We can demand better public transportation and more fuel-efficient vehicles, and we can drive less. Raising average fuel economy in cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2010 would save 1.5 million barrels of oil a day. The type of boat engines we run and the vehicles with which we tow our boats are things we can control.
But the Bush budget sharply reduces spending for federal research and development for energy. Bush's energy report, set to be released mid-May, comes on top of other troubling environmental rollbacks that are hallmarks of his first 100 days.
I realize that our president and his number-two man, both multi-millionaires from their time in the oil industry, owe their oil buddies political dividends for pumping millions into their election coffers. But payback at the expense of our health and our environment, particularly Chesapeake Bay, is hard to stomach.
Fish Are Biting
After a sizzling first week, things have settled down for rockfish trollers. Last week, Karl Roscher, fishing with first mate and wife Robin and friend Kevin Lear, took three hefty rock, each better than 32 inches. The fish hit large off-white bucktails dressed with flaked Sassy Shad. But on their most recent outing, they struggled. That's a theme common to area anglers.
Drew Koslow scored many hickory shad at Deer Creek, where the fish are hitting small spoons and tandem jigheads and shad darts. White shad, the large cousins to the hicks, are also showing up around the Conowingo Dam.