There has been much debate over the last 10 years about drilling for oil off the Florida coast, and if it could reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil. With rising energy costs and budget deficits, the Florida Legislature is again exploring the option.
However, the country’s ever-increasing need for oil will not be satisfied if drilling off Florida’s coast is allowed. Offshore drilling may do more harm than good by negatively impacting Florida’s already suffering beachfront property market and hurting Florida’s tourism industry, which raked in $57 billion in 2004.
A recent 45-page report compiled by the Collins Center for Public Policy (CCPP) at the request of Senate President Jeff Atwater confirmed what previous comprehensive studies had concluded: there are “minimal amounts of oil and gas” in Florida’s waters.
Despite these findings, some lawmakers are still pushing to drill off the coast to offset a budget deficit of $3.18 billion.
Oil companies claim the presence of oil rigs off Florida’s coast will pose little threat to the housing and tourism industries. They also claim that oil spills are a thing of the past, though there are still recent examples of devastation.
According to the site environmentflorida.org, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed more than 100 oil rigs and crippled 450 pipelines. Within the course of a month in 2005, an estimated 1 million gallons of pollutants poured from offshore rigs, and offshore and onshore combined facilities spilled an estimated 9 million gallons. These numbers do not support the statements of oil companies, and it shouldn’t convince lawmakers, either.
CCPP’s report also claims that if an oil spill occurred off the coast, tourists would avoid the beach. The report said the mere presence of oil rigs won’t deter beachgoers, but potential spills and pollutants will.
The risks offshore drilling brings far outweigh the potential financial benefits. The CCPP’s report estimates that the amount of oil off the coast would be 110 million barrels of oil, which wouldn’t be much. It’s estimated that America’s average use per day is just more than 20.5 million barrels.
Is Florida willing to take the chance? That’s the question lawmakers need to be more mindful of. The state prides itself with having an estimated 1,200 miles of pristine sandy beaches, and that’s something that shouldn’t be risked.
Nick Johnston is a junior majoring in creative writing.