I have a recommendation for the Constitutional Revision Commission: Drop consideration of proposal 91 to establish a constitutional ban on oil and natural gas exploration in state waters. The justification for proposal 91 is quickly nullified with the lightest application of scrutiny.
A statutory ban already exists and that is enough! Floridians just haven’t shown interest in a constitutional ban, contrary to what some think.
Unfortunately, the CRC’s two-minute time restriction on public testimony and proposal analyses prepared without input from the experts has prevented the in-depth discussions to truly evaluate such a dramatic proposal.
Let’s take a quick peak at several topics not discussed before them in any rational detail.
The Florida Legislature established a ban in state waters in 1988 -- it is a 30-year ban and counting. Indeed, in 2009 and again in 2010, the Legislature considered repealing the ban.
History shows the Legislature took a hard look at the issue. Gasoline prices had eclipsed $4 per gallon and natural gas, Florida’s primary fuel for generating electricity, was at some of its highest prices.
Not only did Floridians feel it in the pocketbook, Florida’s economy felt the impact. Tourism growth was stagnating and the cost of producing and transporting our agriculture products were reaching unprecedented highs. We were importing more expensive oil from unstable regions of the world.
After an incredibly deliberative process that included 10 pre-session, multi-hour committee meetings exploring all aspects of the issue, the Legislature decided against the repeal.
A constitutional ban would have completely eliminated this option.
If sometime in the future supplies tighten and gasoline prices climb exorbitantly, eliminating all options by establishing a constitutional ban could be catastrophic to Floridians and our economy.
Some have argued it is better to pay the $5 or $6 per gallon gasoline prices than develop offshore.
What these people have not told you is that since the oil spill environmentalists rant about, technology has evolved so oil and natural gas can be extracted without potential harm to our waters and can be completely out-of-sight of tourists who visit our beaches.
Directional drilling has been employed throughout the world in environmentally sensitive areas to mitigate harmful exposure.
Picture this: A platform is set up several miles inland in a remote area. The well is drilled down two miles and then horizontally for seven to eight miles to reach the oil or natural gas reservoir under state waters -- never does a pipe encounter state waters.
Tourists continue to sunbathe, surf and build sand castles on the beach unbeknownst that oil and natural gas are extracted from underneath their feet and the water.
This couldn’t be possible under Proposal 91.
The “keep-it-in-the-ground” extremist movement has stymied production and distribution across the country through misinformation and deceptive measures, especially here in Florida.
For example, the groups have effectively stopped the permitting and construction of natural gas pipelines from Pennsylvania up into the Northeast. Consequently, Northeast utilities have had to import liquefied natural gas from Russia to provide heat for their customers this winter -- does that make sense to you?
As several papers in Florida properly reported, Russians clearly tried to attack our U.S. energy policy by instigating the extremists’ agenda and have even tried to hack our energy infrastructure.
We see a lot of news stories about offshore drilling and some politicians are politicking loudly about it.
But reality is, we only saw a handful of people at each of the CRC public hearings who actually spoke on proposal 91 -- a rather underwhelming turnout of the usual activists.
That may be the reason a similar citizen constitutional ban proposed for the 2012 ballot by these same activists never received sufficient voter signatures to even make the ballot.
That may also be the reason we are reading news reports this week about polling showing less support for the issue than “political wisdom” would have us believe and its inability to reach the 60 percent threshold.
Voters have already spoken -- a constitutional ban is not necessary.
A statutory ban is already in place, and the Legislature has shown deliberation and discretion when addressing it, far more than the Constitutional Revision Commission has been able to pursue on this issue.
The 2018 ballot is packed with important decisions including the selection of federal, state and local officials. Don’t add a ballot initiative that precludes important options that we may one day need.
Barney Bishop III is the president and CEO of Barney Bishop Consulting, LLC, a strategic public affairs firm in Tallahassee and also the immediate past president & CEO of Associated Industries of Florida. He’s been a longtime proponent of drilling to ensure our national security interests. He can be reached at Barney@BarneyBishop.com