Florida’s economy, imperiled and fragile as it is, is directly dependent on tourism. Florida’s tourism industry relies heavily on the idea that Florida has clean beaches and lots of recreational fish to catch. Sunsets, charter boats, beach bars, and white sand blending with turquoise waters are the life blood of the Florida Dream. Florida’s economy, particularly since the development industry is in shambles, has never been more dependent on the nation’s and world’s tourists coming to spend money and support local businesses. Offshore oil and gas drilling, and the infrastructure to move and process product, is a direct threat to Florida’s economy, as well as the coastal environments that define Florida.
As the Senate ponders America’s energy future Senators from land locked or oil owned states like to propose sweeping changes that would open more of the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Florida’s coastlines to offshore oil and gas drilling. It makes great rhetoric, and “drill baby drill” still fires up the base for certain politicians who grasp at any straw to find an issue that moves the base in their direction. What makes for a quick sound bite on the campaign trail is often disastrous public policy. Offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico would be disastrous public policy, and it is a risk Florida can’t afford.
The worst part of the call for drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is that it ignores that fact that as recently as 2006 Congress acted to address this issue and enacted a compromise that should end debate on the subject. Democrats and Republicans, the oil industry and conservationists, and then President and Governor Bush all supported a 2006 compromise the opened more of Lease Area 181 to leasing and drilling in return for a moratorium against drilling 125 miles of the Florida Panhandle, and 250 miles of the Tampa Bay region that is in place for at least the next decade. This subject has been addressed, and Congress acted.
Florida’s environment, economy, and military training infrastructure all would be threatened by drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. As our country moves towards energy policy that stresses renewables, alternatives, and efficiency in an effort both to address climate change and be less dependent on fossil fuels it would be a monumental step backwards to open up more of the Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling. The Gulf and its natural resources and coastal communities have suffered enough from oil and gas drilling. Let’s quit digging the hole deeper and find real solutions.
Florida Program Director
Gulf Restoration Network