Oil companies rejoice, environmentalists writhe, and Floridian surfers worry about their longboarding future. A few days ago, the news/current affairs site Politico revealed that the Trump administration is looking to open up Florida’s coast to offshore drilling.
The plans at this stage are not public, but “four people familiar with the plan” told Politico that the administration was looking to open up Florida’s waters after the November election. The reason for the delay being that the Trump admin does not want to lose potentially key seats to a divisive issue in the lead up to November’s voluntary ballot. Drilling in the region has been banned since 1985, and public opinion on offshore oil drilling hasn’t exactly improved due to 2010’s Deepwater Horizon spill – which spilled five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico – but many, mostly big vested interests, are hoping to overturn the current moratorium.
Despite this, Politico’s anonymous source, who is in contact with the government’s Department of Interior, had the following to say. “Whatever is decided is expected to come out within two to three weeks of the election.” Continuing on to state that the Gulf’s east region is the “golden trophy” for crude oil ‘producers’. This mostly being driven by the estimated 3.6 billion barrels of oil and 11.5 trillion cubic feet of gas that lies in the eastern section of the Gulf.
While it is the Trump administration pushing for this opening, the issue does not divide easily along party lines. It is safe to assume Democrats will mostly oppose such a bill, Republican senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott will also oppose the opening of the region to drilling. Both of which introduced the Florida Shores Protection and Fairness Act which extends the moratorium on drilling in the region for another 10-years. The bill however has not yet been debated in the senate, and therefore does not currently interrupt the aforementioned plans of the Interior.
In addition to potential in-party political obstacles, the plans will also face opposition from tourism industries in Florida – given Florida’s economy is highly reliant on tourism dollars. A fact that even EnVen Energy Ventures, one of the companies interested in a lease, is aware of. ““While we respect that Florida’s economy relies heavily on tourism, oil and gas platforms and rigs 20 miles from the coastline would not be visible to tourists.”
As is obvious to the rationally minded however, the eye-sore that offshore drilling facilities are isn’t the main concern of people opposed to the plan. The most obvious, particularly to surfing, is the looming threat of spill, adding to the already 44 spills in the United States since 1969 – all of which have been over 10,000 barrels. The second, from an economic perspective is the daunting reality (for fossil fuel companies) that such energy sources are no longer economically ideal – renewables are quickly reaching price parity per the amount of energy produced. And thirdly, perhaps the most pertinent issue, is that if the use of fossil fuels (such as oil) continues, we will not have an inhabitable planet to argue about politics upon much longer.
If the Trump administration is re-elected and the bill is passed, the bill will be open to public comment before a final version is presented to the senate. Not that politicians, nor the lobbyists that back them, have much of a history of listening to their electorates when money is at stake.
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