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April 13, 1998

Regarding your March 9 Viewpoint, "The stakes are high in endocrine debate", protesters screamed, "Gender benders!" at us in a recent City Commission meeting in Treasure Island, Fla. (Note: Makrauer was Commissioner of Treasure Island District 1 and Commission member from March 1997 through March 1999.) The battleground issue was not plastics, but Orimulsion, DuPont's alternative fuel for electric power plants, imported from Venezuela via a joint venture of its Conoco Oil subsidiary.

This unique emulsion of bitumen and water is shipped in double-hulled tankers and pumped like oil into storage tanks. The Exxon Valdez tragedy is the poster-child of Orimulsion's inevitable -- not just "possible" -- tragedy to Tampa Bay's delicate, beautiful and essential marine environment.

But, unlike immiscible oil in water, Orimulsion thoroughly spreads over and deposits onto everything it hits in and under the sea. As a key West Coast Florida tourist and residential community, Treasure Island's world-class gulf beach was positioned as being at risk, if Florida's Department of Environmental Protection were to approve Orimulsion's use.

Environmental damage was just one part of the protesters' charge for our commission to take a formal position against Orimulsion. The speakers asserted direct -- no equivocation -- health threats and threw around scary endocrine mimics, gender benders, hormone disrupters and other frightful phases. Our public audience and commissioners were moved.

No one should doubt the use of this issue in the ongoing war against the plastics/chemical/petroleum industries. Unlike solid waste, the biomolecular sins of each of these related industries will be cast over the others. And, unlike the landfill nonsense, there aren't recycling and source reduction technologies to demonstrate or resultant benefits to discuss, promote and advertise.

Sterility, anyone? Invite your neighborhood mutant to lunch? Not only does this specter change the dynamics of the industries' public communications dialogue (or defense), it's another -- perhaps the most compelling -- reason to question the wisdom of the plastics/chemicals industries' splits between and within the American Plastics Council and Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.

The dynamics of public office politics are slight compared to wondering what it might take to get parochial polymer egos off the table and see important alliances re-established and working.

George A. Makrauer

Treasure Island, Fla.

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