Guest commentary: Offshore exploration promises jobs, energy for Floridans

When Congress let expire the moratorium on oil and natural gas exploration in coastal waters, the economic possibilities of new jobs, trillions of revenue dollars and bolstered energy security were finally within national reach. However, a year has passed since this major shift in policy, and America has yet to reap any of the benefits.

The development of America’s vast domestic oil and natural gas resources that had been kept off limits by Congress for decades could generate $1.7 trillion in revenue for federal, state and local governments. According to an ICF International study, domestic development could also create thousands of good-paying jobs. Given the benefits, why does the administration continue to delay new and increased development?

Here in Florida, support for increased offshore energy development continues to gain steam with each passing day, as evidenced by various state public opinion polls. Last year’s advancement in the House opened the door further to a much-need discussion on energy security and economic development. And now, both incoming leaders of the House and Senate, along with other state legislators, have pledged their support to revisit the topic next legislative session.

We would do our state well by getting behind our lawmakers and pro-drilling advocates. Florida stands to gain 13,142 jobs if the previously off-limit federal areas are developed. This doesn’t even include all that could be achieved if state waters are opened to exploration and development. It’s the type of solution that the state needs to overcome its nearly 11 percent unemployment rate. Offshore development in Florida could also generate $429 billion in federal, state and local revenues.

Over the life of the resource, ICF International estimated that Florida’s share of production from the outer continental shelf could total 19.7 billion barrels of oil and 56.5 trillion cubic feet of clean-burning natural gas. That energy, straight from the state’s shores, would provide part of America’s energy solution, as our nation attempts to stay competitive in the face of rapid globalization and increased competition for resources.

Offshore energy development is safe and it is clean. Through advanced technology, the oil and natural gas industry has reduced its environmental footprint and minimized any lasting impact on ecosystems or surrounding wildlife. The industry goes about its business finding, developing and delivering oil and natural gas while leaving the Earth nearly untouched — a fact all Americans need to remember.

Considering the amount of domestic resources off America’s shoreline, our oil and natural gas companies need to be committed to environmentally compatible drilling. And they are.

The government estimates our nation has enough oil and natural gas resources to power 65 million cars for 60 years and heat 60 million households for 160 years. And odds are much more resources lurk below the ground. In 1987, the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) estimated that there were 9 billion barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. By 2006, after major advances in seismic technology and deepwater drilling techniques, the MMS resource estimate for that area had ballooned to 45 billion barrels.

After decades-long investments of hundreds of billions of dollars, technology is enabling America’s oil and natural gas companies to access more resources from more remote places — some previously unreachable — with significantly less impact on the environment. These technology investments allow oil and natural-gas companies to access the same amount of reserves with half the number of wells it took 20 years ago.

Every day, industry, business and households across America rely on a steady supply of traditional fuels. Through the safe, clean expansion of drilling, our state can play a major role in contributing to these domestic needs. And, in part, the increased industrial activity will help close the looming gap between those employed and those searching for work. For the good of our nation, lawmakers must seize the opportunity of an expired moratorium and expand domestic access.

For a video interview with Mica, go to naplesnews.com/oneonone

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