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Date of Issue: July 01, 2009


Are oil rigs coming to our offshore vista?

Could offshore drilling for oil and natural gas be inching closer to Anna Maria Island’s shores?

Maybe.

Depends.

According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Joe Follick, “Drilling for oil and natural gas within 10 miles of Florida's coast has suddenly become one of the chief objectives for [state] Republican legislative leaders and industry backers who see a rare convergence of political opportunity and public sentiment.”

However, the paper’s Jeremy Wallace, on the same day, said of offshore exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico — that’s us —regarding congressional leaders, “the proposal, led by Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, would allow drilling 45 miles from most of the Gulf Coast, and as close as 13 miles in the Panhandle. The surprise amendment passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a 13-10 vote [June 16.]”

Huh? Yeah.

There is a 2006 law passed by Congress that stops any drilling within 234 miles of Tampa Bay. That limit has been nibbled at by lawmakers ever since, with some proposals suggesting that 10 miles would be a good distance from shore for offshore rigs.

According to the Herald-Tribune, “Floridians are realizing that now more than ever it's time to make this decision that's in Florida's best interest economically," said U.S. Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, regarding near-shore offshore drilling.

He’s countered by environmentalist Mark Ferrulo of Progress Florida, who said, “We expect to see an assault on our beaches from Big Oil the likes of which we've never seen in the 25-year history of this fight.”

A key player to all this fuss is state Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, who is expected to become Florida House of Representative speaker in 2010. He’s been pushing drilling in the Gulf for a year or so.

As the Herald-Tribune reported, “Eric Draper, a longtime lobbyist for Audubon of Florida who is running as a Democrat for state agricultural commissioner next year, said the public does not want expanded drilling. ‘I think the public is going to look and say, “Do we want Florida to be a state where we protect our coastal beach economy which is worth $50 billion or more for a gamble, a promise, a bet, from Texas oil men?” If I have to choose between a guy who owns the hotel on Clearwater Beach and the guy who owns the oil rigs in Texas, I'm choosing the guy in Clearwater Beach.’”

Or Anna Maria Island.

 

What’s out there

Here’s some numbers.

Florida’s pro-drilling folks say oil and gas collected offshore will reap the state between $7 billion to $10 billion. Most of the revenue would come from the Florida Panhandle in an area off Destin. Gas, that is, natural gas.

Also from the Herald-Tribune comes this, probably the most telling of all the arguments:

“The Department of the Interior estimates that the eastern Gulf could provide up to 3.88 billion barrels of oil. The U.S. consumes more than 7.5 billion barrels a year.”

Huh? There’s less than a half-year’s worth of U.S. oil out there, threatening a $50 billion annual tourism asset to the state?

Huh?

 

Sandscript factoid

The United States produces about 3 percent of worldwide fuel, yet gobbles up about 25 percent of global product.

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