In the wake of the BP Oil Disaster back in April, we unhesitatingly reminded our fellow Floridians that Oil Exploration and Drilling Must Continue off Florida’s Coasts. In that article, we cautiously stated that it would be “hard to gauge what the extent of the environmental damage will be” and we purposely avoided engaging in the same doomsday rhetoric that most in the media were churning out subsequent to the accident.
Over half a year later, and after a virtual media blackout that choked off reporting and information from the scene of the spill, we now know that the more serious environmental damage that occurred from the disaster was largely preventable- that being the the oil that reached the shoreline along the Gulf Coast wetlands in Louisiana which were not skimmed immediately. It’s also been sufficiently chronicled that there was an incompetent and possibly an intentionally delayed response from federal authorities to aggressively skim and cleanup oil on the surface of the Gulf. But in spite of the Federal Government’s incompetence, the Washington Post reported that scientists who assessed the environmental damage from the incident did not regard it as either catastrophic or irreparable:
Scientists are still trying to measure the spill’s full impact on the gulf. Little oil remains on the water’s surface, and the toll of about 6,100 birds and 600 turtles was just a fraction of the animal deaths in the Alaska spill. There are continuing concerns about what’s happening on the seafloor. But it is already clear that this was not Valdez.
Prior to the disaster, 66 percent of Floridians said they supported drilling, while 27 percent opposed it. In the wake of the disaster, the polling on the issue predictably swung against offshore drilling- from 51 percent in opposition to 42 percent in support- a huge 48 percent swing. However, it appears that opposition to drilling reached its high water mark over the summer. In August, the research firm IPSOS found that the public did not support a constitutional amendment that banned offshore drilling off Florida, by a 49-41 margin, so the understandable emotional response to the disaster that caused the public to hedge on drilling has abated, and support for drilling and exploration can probably be revived.
While the spill’s effects are largely behind us, what is not behind us is our country’s lack of a coherent energy policy and the threat that directly poses to our national security. There should be a sense of urgency about the matter, especially in light of of the looming crisis with Iran that could substantially disrupt oil production and cause yet another sharp spike in prices.
Florida’s incoming conservative-Republican majority in the state legislature along with Governor-Elect Rick Scott have an opportunity to make the case again as to why drilling should be permitted along Florida’s coastline. Our legislature has authority over drilling that occurs from 3-10 miles off our coasts. Come January, the newly minted Republican majority in Congress can end its moratorium on Outer-Continental Shelf drilling from within 125 miles off our shoreline as well.
President Obama’s ill-advised drilling moratorium after the BP disaster, along with his misleading drilling initiative earlier this year have only exacerbated our problems. Since his much hyped call for offshore drilling in early April, President Obama and his Department of Interior have not approved one deepwater drilling permit, and none are expected for the foreseeable future.
The government is defending the time it is taking to approve deepwater offshore drilling permits that would have been suspended under the moratorium that was lifted nearly a month ago.
Ensco Offshore claims that since the ban was lifted Oct. 12, the government has not issued a single permit that would allow the resumption of any previously suspended drilling activities.
The government doesn’t seem to dispute that allegation, saying in a late Monday filing that it must ensure applications meet regulations toughened after the Gulf oil spill.
The issue was to be discussed at a Tuesday court hearing.
Since Oct. 12, the government has received one application for a permit to drill a new well and one to drill a sidetrack. It also received three revised applications for permits to drill. All are pending.
As it stands right now, about 85 percent of our territorial waters are off-limits to oil exploration and production. Untold billions of barrels of domestic could be extracted off our coastline if we were willing to go after it. Gas has again reached the $3.00 a gallon- a barrier that makes people start to wonder about our national energy policy. What price does gasoline have to reach before those polling numbers revert back to what they were in April? We are about to find out the answer to that question in the not too distant future. In the meantime, our state legislature had better be prepared to make the case once again that drilling off our shores must resume.
Fossil fuels are not going anywhere in the foreseeable future, and our control over our energy resources is absolutely vital to our economy and our national security. We’ve now experienced the worst-case offshore oil disaster scenario, and “moved on” in spite of the temporary hardships and inconveniences Gulf Coast residents have experienced- but they’re still no excuse to stall progress.
Check out the Consumer Energy Alliance’s website for more information along with their petition to encourage Congressional action on this issue now.