There were two noteworthy developments over the last few days in the Central Florida CSX saga, one widely reported – the Department of Community Affairs’ approval of the Winter Haven rail hub – and the less widely noted designation of a new point man to handle the “public private partnerships” here in Florida and in Massachusetts.
I’m going to touch on the second item first, because it’s brief and funny – at least to me.
The new guy’s name is Louis Renjel. Unsurprisingly, I’d never heard of him. But I did notice something in CSX’s little press release: From 1999 to 2003, Renjel worked with U.S. Senator James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, first as legislative assistant and then as deputy staff director of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
So what, you ask? Well, Inhofe is perhaps the most prominent and forceful denier of global warming in the U.S. Senate, which, as you can imagine, was awfully significant back when he was chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee prior to the 2006 Democratic takeover. Inhofe in 2003 called the threat of catastrophic global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” He reiterated that stance forcefully in this 2005 press release.
Now, I have less than zero interest in litigating the validity of global warming theory here. Put aside for a second whether you think Inhofe is right or wrong. What’s indisputable is how much time and money CSX is spending advertising itself as the green alternative to trucking, highlighting how much stuff it can haul on a gallon of gas. “How Tomorrow Moves,” that’s the slogan now. I’ve seen CSX ads on TV, heard them on NPR, and on regular radio, without even looking for them. They’re everywhere.
And we all know how attuned to global warming/climate change Gov. Charlie Crist is. He’s made global warming awareness and concern part of his new-kind-of-Republican-like-Arnold schtick. Check out this story from last month. Money quote: “When you realize the kind of impact that climate change can have on a state like Florida, as any other … I think the people of our respective states expect us to at least try to make a difference.”
CSX met with Crist in April 2007 to discuss energy policy and the Florida realignment deal. Expect the People’s Governor to use Global Warming as a reason to back this deal more forcefully than he did last session. Considering that, it’s baffling to me why CSX would put a key lieutenant to Mr. Global-Warming-is-a-Malevolent Hoax in charge of the political effort to convince the state to spend hundreds of millions of dollars it can’t afford to pay for CSX’s business plan. It’s like they want to give me something to write about. Power, yes. Money, yes. Political savvy, no. CSX is strangely incompetent at shaping its image.
So let me just ask: Mr Renjel, do you agree with your old boss, Sen. Inhofe, that global warming is the mother of all hoaxes? If so, do you believe the People’s Governor is complicit in that hoax? I’ll be happy to accept an answer from PR man Gary Sease. I’m sure this will pop up on some Google news alert he receives. I also wonder if the governor’s office has a reaction to this. Anybody can reach me at email@example.com.
I’ll deal with the state of play on the hub and the larger CSX deal in a subsequent post.