CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Part environmentalist, part roadie, Jon Davids takes his job as an inflatable bass transporter seriously.

Since May he’s driven nearly 20,000 miles across the country with Freddie Mercury, an 18-foot inflatable largemouth bass owned by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Davids earns $365 a week helping local PIRGs and environmentalists stage news conferences to speak out on mercury pollution.

In Washington, Austin, Texas, and on Wednesday in Concord, it was the same routine: set up the podium, haul out the generator, pull Freddie from his carrier bag and blow him up. If it’s windy, Davids – a student member of MassPIRG at Salem State College – makes sure Freddie is securely tethered. At the end of each event, he hurries off in search of an Internet connection so he can report back to a field office. Freddie rolled into Portland, Maine, on Thursday morning.

Environmentalists oppose the Bush administration’s proposal for an emissions cap-and-trade program that they say ignores the dangers of localized mercury hotspots. They are against the proposal that would allow power plants to purchase credits to meet an emissions cap instead of requiring them to install pollution-reduction equipment. Such a program would delay federal emissions reduction goals by a decade, they say.

Maria Comella, Bush campaign spokeswoman for New Hampshire, said the President’s proposal is not a rollback of the emissions deadline. Cap and trade “permits utilities to make a much more rational investment in emissions control,” she said.

Mercury released by power plants is deposited in lakes through precipitation and then absorbed by fish in a different form, called methylmercury. Advisories in place for all Maine and New Hampshire lakes warn children and pregnant women about eating fish more than once a month.

On Wednesday, Freddie lolled in the breeze, just beyond a statue of Daniel Webster on the Statehouse plaza. Davids’ father, Glenn Davids, circled the enormous fish, snapping photos. Davids’ mother, Judy Davids, posed with Freddie after the news conference wrapped.

The Davids have been following their son’ cross-country road trip with Freddie over the Internet. They drove 70 miles from Lynn, Mass., to get their first live glimpse. “He’s the crew, and he knows this stuff inside out,” said Judy Davids.

“He’s gotten really strong from lugging these things around,” his father said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.