Chances are, you’ve noticed it’s election season. It seems everywhere we look another politician is inserting his or her opinion on the latest hot topic, whether it’s education, public safety and, of course, the environment. Offshore development continues to be a “hot potato” issue -- it seems no one wants to touch it, at least not publicly.
I’ve seen an interesting trend in which candidates, whether Republican or Democrat, are quick to denounce offshore development yet fail to touch on the policy aspect. Instead, it’s all about emotion. Politicians seem to buy right into the scare tactics used by radical environmentalists and forego scientific reason at the expense of our energy supply and economy.
I’m a proud blue-dog Democrat, so I can tell you offshore development is not a partisan issue. For me, the cornerstone of offshore development, or any safe form of energy development, is about affordable energy, which literally keeps our lights on. Not to mention offshore also keeps our friends, families and neighbors employed, our economy flourishing and our country secure. These are all talking points politicians typically love, so why is offshore different? It’s simple: fear mongering.
Those who push anti-drilling messages spread an alarmist rhetoric while avoiding rational policy discussions. You’d be surprised at the sheer volume of people who decry expansion of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) program but would not be able to explain what offshore actually does or what it really looks like. All offshore development means is companies extract oil deposits under the ocean floor. And, the oil reservoirs are identified by seismic surveys before development even begins.
These surveys have been proven safe for marine animals, as previously stated by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s chief environmental officer.
Another point that seems to get lost in the OCS debate is this: there are not going to be any drilling rigs on our beaches. I know that is contrary to what we read in the media, but it’s true. I love the beach, and I don’t want to see any rigs on the sand, either. Fortunately, offshore development actually takes place many miles away from land and is rarely visible from the shore.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I did not point out the economic benefits as well. OCS expansion could add 56,000 jobs in Florida and contribute $4.5 billion to our state’s economy.
It’s not a popular opinion, but I’m proud to say it -- I support safe offshore development, and I’m not the only one. I recently joined a bipartisan coalition called Explore Offshore, an organization of supporters who appreciate energy’s importance to our economy and national security. Members range from current and former elected officials, small business owners, economic groups, minority organizations, veterans and other community leaders. Through education and discussions, we hope to dispel various myths surrounding offshore and instead focus on the numerous benefits.
I encourage Floridians to learn more about the coalition and consider signing up. Or, if you just want to talk policy, I’m all ears -- but please, let’s leave the theatrics out of the conversation.
Barney Bishop III, immediate past president of the Associated Industries of Florida and owner of a Florida consulting firm.