Phosphate National Policy

Glenn Compton
Adequate phosphate mining policies cannot be developed based on the hope, and that is all it is, a hope, that technology will give us the means to develop presently undevelopable resources or find a way to substitute for phosphate.

With energy and all non-renewable resources increasing in costs with scarcity, it is most doubtful that the technology to develop many non-renewable resources will ever be feasible. 

The limited scope of the Army Corps of Engineers Areawide Environmental Impact Study (AEIS) on phosphate mining demonstrates the need for a national phosphate policy. 

In the case of phosphate, the AEIS Phosphate Study shows phosphate demand likely exceeds the domestic supply. The phosphate resources the industry cites as a likely supply are, of course, much greater than reserves and cannot possibly be mined under existing conditions. 

Lacking is any meaningful consideration to reduce phosphate uses, or the long-term detrimental effects of unlimited mining of a non-renewable resource, or conservation which is going to require a more definitive specific analysis. Market mechanisms will not be adequate to ensure the conservation of phosphate resources. 

The economic productivity of mining phosphate will result in the trade-off of the destruction of air and water resources in exchange for low-cost fertilizer. 

What this means is, Florida and the nation are permitting the phosphate industry to degrade our environment without any thought of conservation. We are permitting ourselves to be put in the same dependency situation that we are with oil. This points to the need to develop a national policy to conserve our nation's phosphate. 

We certainly do not need to take additional steps to encourage the immediate and long-range depletion of phosphate reserves to the detriment of the environment. 

Policy efforts through regulation should be developed to conserve this non-renewable resource. The economic effects of such action, at least in the case of phosphate mining, would be minimal. If all mining stopped, there would likely be no serious unemployment since phosphate workers would be readily absorbed by the much healthier to work in service industries. 

An important phosphate mineral policy objective should be to ensure the conservation of our domestic supply and to ensure that the attainment of this objective is of paramount importance as yielding the greatest benefits to the nation. 

Certainly, the need to protect human health and the environment must take precedence over any theoretical economic burden of phosphate management. 

As far as the impact of such a policy on our so-called free enterprise system, subsidized by the government as it is, the survival of our national economy is threatened by the present rate of phosphate mining. 

Economic benefits realized from current mining operations are small when compared to the future costs of letting phosphate become an international diplomatic weapon to the potential detriment of America, with overall the environment and public health being the victim. 

Glenn Compton is the Chairman of ManaSota 88, a non-profit organization that has spent over 30 years fighting to protect the environment of Manatee and Sarasota counties.

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