Facts sink new drilling technology
December 26, 2009
It is becoming increasingly evident that the shadowy group promoting oil drilling immediately off Florida's shores is playing fast and loose with the facts.
Florida Energy Associates, an independent group of oil producers that won't identify its members, claims in its literature, "New technology allows for safe, sub-sea energy exploration without creating a visual blight. No visible, permanent structures need be seen from the shoreline."
Rep. Dean Cannon, the Winter Park Republican who is the Legislature's leading champion of drilling, continually claims there will be no unsightly rigs.
As the Sarasota Herald-Tribune found, the new technology is a deep-sea system that operates in thousands of feet of water. The American Petroleum Institute told a Herald-Tribune reporter the system is intended for water more than 5,000 feet deep. In contrast, the oil group wants to drill between three and 10 miles off Florida's beaches, where the water is no deeper than 100 feet.
Moreover, a subsea system would be possible in Florida waters only if a traditional drilling platform were nearby and could pipe oil to an onshore refinery, which would require the industrialization of Florida's coast. This would diminish the state's appeal to tourists and residents alike.
As an oil official told the Herald-Tribune, "There is no such thing as an invisible rig."
Florida Energy Associates officials, of course, brush off such details, claiming the technology they promise could be developed if only Florida would give drilling the go ahead.
In other words, trust us.
Florida lawmakers would be foolish if they do.
Consider other claims.
The drilling proponents said as much as 3 billion barrels of oil lie beneath Florida's waters. But the 3-billion-barrel figure is based on a U.S. Geological Survey report that included not just Florida's waters but much of the Gulf of Mexico and land deposits under most of the South.
Another assertion is that Florida would realize $2.25 billion a year in royalties. But that is based on the assumption Florida waters would produce 150 million barrels of oil a year - more than Alaska, Texas, Louisiana and California combined produced in their peak year. And remember, almost all the exploratory wells that were drilled before Florida's coastline was protected came up dry.
Of course, the oil crowd's mantra is that the rigs pose no risk to the environment. But just last August, a blowout occurred on a new "jack-up" rig like what is proposed for Florida, and it spilled 300 to 400 barrels of oil a day for weeks in the Timor Sea off Australia.
Such an accident would ruin our white sandy beaches, considered among the best in the nation, and demolish Florida's $65 billion-a-year tourism industry. And small oil spills remain routine in Gulf of Mexico operations.
It is encouraging that Florida Senate President Jeff Atwater, unlike Cannon, is in no hurry to do the bidding of a group of secretive oil interests.
Atwater wants to determine the truth about drilling. He, like the people of Florida, will find that can't be done by relying on proponents' oily sales pitch.
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