Florida should allow offshore drilling

Florida’s ban on offshore drilling may be lifted if the Florida Legislature calls a special session next month. While many environmentalists oppose drilling for oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico, Floridians are beginning to see its appeal.

A poll conducted in August by McLaughlin & Associates for Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) found that 75 percent of those surveyed think offshore drilling should be allowed.

“Our latest poll, which was conducted about two weeks ago, has it at about 78 percent of Floridians in support of some type of drilling if it’s responsible and done in an environmentally sound way,” said Jose Gonzalez, a spokesman for AIF, to Capitol News Service.

This was the latest of several polls this year that clearly show Floridians want offshore drilling. A poll conducted by Mason-Dixon research in April found that 88 percent surveyed would support drilling if they could be sure it wouldn’t hurt the environment. A July poll by the Tarrance Group found that 65 percent of Floridians would allow drilling off state beaches.

Strong public support is not the only reason to lift the ban on offshore drilling. Drilling would be a boom to Florida’s economy. While the oil deposits in the Gulf would not end dependence on foreign oil or significantly lower gas prices, oil companies would bring much-needed tax revenue and create jobs in Florida.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, Hank Fishkind, an Orlando economist, estimates that Florida could earn as much as $2.3 billion a year from oil leases and taxes alone.

Those in the Legislature who favor lifting the ban plan to earmark oil and gas revenue for environmental projects, such as cleaning up the Everglades, the Times reported.

With advanced technology, the risk of environmental disaster from offshore drilling is minimal, and the increase in state revenue would actually help the environment. Oil rigs, platforms and pipelines in the Gulf are built for safety.

Even after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita plowed through the Gulf, destroying 113 oil platforms and damaging 457 pipeline segments, the U.S. Minerals Management Service reported that there were some spills, but, “No shoreline or wildlife impacts were noted from these spills.”

The Legislature should remove the ban on offshore drilling. As long as the proper care is taken, drilling will help revitalize Florida’s economy and may help, rather than harm, Florida’s beaches and waterways.