Off-again, on-again…The quest to drill off Florida

The on-again, off-again saga of drilling off the Florida coast is…on again. Well, apparently it was never really off. Just a few days after the Trump administration proposed opening nearly the entire U.S. coast to drilling, including the long off-limits eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida, there came a hasty announcement from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. After meeting briefly with Florida governor Rick Scott, Zinke announced that there would be no drilling off Florida. Huh? At first that seemed like good news, but it’s also true that major decisions such as where to allow drilling are hugely complex and take months and years to outline. The political theatre of Sec. Zinke’s announcement was replaced a few days later by a reality-check from the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, who said that Zinke’s announcement is not official policy and that the five year leasing plan including drilling off FL is still moving forward. Offshore drilling is a pretty simple issue in Florida, as there is strong opposition from the majority of the State’s residents, businesses, elected officials, and even the U.S. military. We’re more likely to agree on our opposition to drilling than we are on the weather. It’s a tie that binds us, and one that puts aside ideologies in favor of practicalities. Drilling is far too risky for an economy that is intimately tied to clean water and sugar sand beaches.

Next will come a groundswell of opposition, as Floridians will turn-out for the one public hearing scheduled in Florida on February 8 in Tallahassee. We’ll be contacting our elected officials, educating friends and neighbors, and otherwise rising to the cause. GRN will rally our members and friends, and together we will say no to dirty energy and yes to the infinite power of clean energy. Encouraging more fossil fuel exploration anywhere, at the same time that Americans so strongly support renewable energy, is like encouraging us to smoke more cigarettes even though we know that smoking kills. The same goes for drilling. We all know it’s a bad deal, and the vast majority of people favor renewable energy over fossil fuels. All of this makes me think about what would motivate the Trump administration to change course and drop plans for opening the eastern Gulf. Considering the administration’s disdain for science, I doubt if presenting detailed research documenting the negative environmental impacts of oil and gas drilling will be a motivator. There is a practicality that will make a difference, and that is the power of our electorate. Florida is always a battleground state in the presidential election, and almost always votes for the winner only choosing wrong once in the past 54 years. Only two states have more than our 29 electoral college votes. That makes Florida pretty much a “must win” state for Presidential candidates. And so the message to the Trump administration, and to any 2020 presidential candidate Democrat, Republican, or other is that if you want Florida, you have to support our opposition to drilling. It will become the “litmus test” for winning our state, and the first question we ask of any candidate for the highest office in the land.

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