Pensacola News Journal, June 27, 2018
“The adverse consequences of offshore oil drilling to the tourist economy of Florida are well-known. One only needs to look back to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 to see consequences of a potential disaster. Even though the spill occurred off the coast of Louisiana, tourism on Florida’s west coast fell 14% in the following months. Further, a Harvard economist found that a net loss of 50,000 jobs occurred after the spill along Florida’s Gulf Coast south of the panhandle.
Resumption of leasing and potential exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico will exact a chilling effect on our tourist economy and stifle economic growth. It is neither fair nor acceptable to expose the west and north coasts of Florida to the risks presented by this activity.
Furthermore, drilling in the eastern Gulf is unnecessary. While economic arguments based on tourism are well known, a less discussed component of the debate over offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf is future of oil demand. By the time any production would begin on prospects in or after 2019, global demand for oil will likely have peaked.
Markets are evolving and the focus of American energy development is changing as well. As prices for alternative energy sources drop, due to new technology and market demand, reliance on petroleum will decline significantly. For example, according to the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the cost of electricity generated from solar and wind sources fell almost 60% from 2010 to 2016. There is already a trend away from petroleum to alternatives, as the rise in popularity of electric cars illustrates.
Analysts are predicting, and energy companies are planning for, reaching peak oil demand within the next two decades. Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultant, predicts that oil demand will peak by 2030 at the latest, while Shell has a scenario reaching peak demand by the late 2020’s. Shell’s CEO, Ben van Beurden, has already indicated that his company will adapt to the shifting markets, and the company plans to become a major player in the changing energy market.
There are also many land drilling prospects made economical by the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking technologies. In the Permian Basin of west Texas, the Wolfcamp shale bed, just one of three of the developable beds in the area, is estimated to contain 20 billion barrels of oil.
This means that by the time necessary infrastructure, such as docks, pipelines, and tank farms, would have been built to support the supply vessels and barges which service offshore drilling, peak oil demand will likely have passed. Profits and job creation would be much lower than the American Petroleum Institute (API) predicts. API, and its Florida-based front, the Florida Petroleum Council, claim that offshore drilling in Florida would create 56,000 new jobs by 2035. Due to the occurrence of peak demand for oil, this prediction will never become a reality, and, if a disaster struck like Deepwater Horizon, the job losses would be catastrophic. It would be existential for Florida.
On the other hand, according to research by the University of Florida’s Sea Grant Program, ocean tourism and recreation is projected to create 268,000 new jobs over the next decade; tourism is a much better bet for Floridians than offshore drilling.
Florida’s livelihood depends on its environment and tourism, and, as a result, there is no place for offshore drilling here. With the changes foreseen in the oil industry, there is even less of a reason to put Florida at risk. We must prevent offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Francis Rooney is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 19th congressional district. He is the Vice-Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce.”