Me, Myself And Bob

There was no shortage of surfers in the Atlantic City Convention Center on April 6. While the hearing over how to yield energy from the Offshore {{{Continental}}} Shelf (OCS) barely filled half the seats — estimates reckon about 250 attendees or so over the course of 12 hours — more than a few folks took the mike to say "I ride waves and here's what I think." Some were members of Clean Ocean Action; others assorted Surfrider chapters. There were NJ industry players like photographers Seth Stafford and Ryan Miller and journo Jon Coen. Even Sam Hammer, Frank Walsh and Matt Keenan popped in to show support. But the surfer I want to thank is a guy named Bob Oliver.

Now, Bob's no pro -- unless you want a stiff a drink or smart-ass comment -- but he's committed. The kind of surfer you see every swell. The kind who'll drive nine hours from his Outer Banks home for a three-minute chance to say, "We don't want oil and natural gas exploration along the Graveyard of the Atlantic and Hurricane Alley." And thank God he did; because otherwise, I'd have been the only North Carolina resident in the whole room. That's right: while every state from Virginia north sent at least one energy expert or elected politician, my home's official opinion came down to two average shmoes. And when Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar finally asked if there was "Anyone — ANYONE — here from North Carolina?" Bob happened to be in the bathroom. Meaning -- of more than 9 million potential voices --Salazar heard only one: mine.

We're lucky; Georgia, South Carolina and Florida sent nobody at all. The point? You can't count on someone else to speak your mind in these fights. So as we head toward the West Coast energy hearing in San Francisco on April 16, think long and hard on how much you can depend on your fellow surfers to show up. And, assuming they do, consider whether they will actually echo your personal views. If they'll have the balls to approach the microphone. Or even the intelligence to construct a clear argument beyond, "Dude, we'll just be bogus, too."

Now, as you reluctantly -- nay, courageously -- start packing the car to make the drive this Thursday, consider these other lessons from Atlantic City.

1. Dolla, dolla bill , y'all. Got any ones? Bring 'em. No, there will be no strip club after parties -- at least nothing official -- but with signs and costumes not allowed in the hearing, you'll need some way to silently express disapproval. No sooner did the first oil company exec start spewing misinformation, Surfrider's Northeast Regional director John Weber reached in his pocket, pulled out a Washington and held it over his head. "This guy's in it for the money," he explained. Six or seven of us immediately followed suit and repeated the gesture anytime someone spoke from the API, BP, the natural gas lobby or any interest group who stands to profit off oil or gas exploration. Surfrider has full plans to continue the ritual in San Francisco, so fill your wallet -- and spread the word. With the increased turnout, that small handful of cash will look like a fist-full of opposition in California.

2.. Prepare to hear about more than just oil and gas. As we posted last Monday from AC, almost immediately the topic turned from petroleum products to clean, renewable energy -- particularly wind and solar. Much of this was at the prompting of Salazar himself. Any time someone said, "No oil rigs," he parried, "What about wind mills?" It turns out that, while the Minerals Management Service (MMS) estimates the Atlantic holds a paltry 4-billion barrels of recoverable oil, there's at least 3000 medium-sized coal plants worth of wind energy, much of it close to the Northeast's megalopolis of DC, New York, Bosto