Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When is enough, enough?

When is enough, enough?
Roman Abramovich, wiki here, gangster, thief, con-man, plutocrat and one of the wealthiest men in the world, has just had his boat, Eclipse, floated. It is notable as the largest private yacht in the world. A set of pics and description are here. It is made of steel. The weight of the boat, 13000 gross tonnes, when converted to pounds is 29,120,000 lbs. Fuel capacity is 8801 liters. ( 2325 gallons) It cruises at 25 knots an hour.
I was unable to obtain fuel consumption figures for the specific boat, but here is the rate for a charter boat half the size:
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 800 ltrs/hour (211 gallons).

The descriptions are really only best guesses, written by a salivating media, and the cost estimate is for the boat only, exclusive of furniture and toys. For a look inside another of these behemoths the WSJ recently published this video.

There is a decidedly mixed message within this video. While subtly mocking the $60k water faucet, the "nookie" chamber, or the walls lined with the hides of sting rays, the reporters appear to enjoy cavorting aboard, racing along the corridors and apparently wishing they could extend their stay. Nothing new about that. When boats float on "in the water" boat shows/sales the docks are flooded with on-lookers clawing aboard, wanting to know who owns what, and how much it costs. The owners know of the envy they provoke. Around the world in port after port owners have their yachts docked stern in, and proceed to dine in lavish excess while the proles stroll by and salivate. No fear of protest or a pitched grenade, owners know the poor eat each other.

Here is a list of other yachts that are the "top 100" in size.

We'll know later today if stories regarding the Florida candidate for senate, Jeff Greene, uses and abuses of his yacht sank his election bid.

We were living in Florida, just south of the Port Everglades cut on 9/11/01. Within an hour of the confirmation of the news of what had happened in NY and before we knew if the attack was limited, hundreds of yachts could be seen bobbing in the ocean. I called a boat builder I knew in the area and asked him what he knew, what was up? "They figure if this is it, their chances are better at sea then on shore, they're outta here." Says something about the character of the big boat owner.

We cannot suppose that all of this excess is without consequence. The argument that we have no right to dictate to any of these billionaires what they can or cannot do with their money is an argument WE cannot afford. By example we rarely restrict the scale of housing. If megabucks wants to build a McMansion he is generally free to do what he wants. However there are mitigating circumstances. When in the height of the drought that threatened to parch Atlanta in 2007, the county water authority placed restrictions on water consumption.

When it was discovered that a fat cat was consuming 440,000 gallons of water a month for his mansion the outrage and outcry resulting in forcing him to cut back. Public outrage reined in an excess that threatened the rest of us. This outrage is too rare. As tourists roam the "great houses" of the world they never ask how the wealth was obtained, how many backs were broken in the process of the erection of these monuments to excess.

There is no outrage at the overwhelming excesses of big boat owners. And the scale of their abuses. They are building the equivalent of private hotels that dwarf any of the so-called "great" houses.

One would hope, in a resource starved world, that we would shift the onus of responsibility where it belongs. We are barraged with stories of how marginal peasants, let's use Chiapus as an example, are deforesting the jungle. We blame them, not the end user who converts these exotic hardwoods into railings for his motor yacht.

Are we blind to the fact that having 30 million tons of steel processed for a private yacht is of enormous environmental impact. Do we really accept the idea that because a person can "afford" to burn fuel at the rate of gallons per mile it has no impact on the rest of us. These gluttons are eating our lunch and we don't pull the plate off the table. We stare like beggars at the banquet and validate their excess. We may have no political authority to curb them or rein them in, but we can abhor their behavior and let them know it. Maybe some of the rowdies at a Chelsea ( the team Abramovich just bought) soccer match might carry in a sign or two.

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