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  1. Opinion

Column: Let's explore safe, offshore drilling off Florida's coast

** FILE ** A row of gas pumps at an Exxon station is shown in a Charlotte, N.C. file photo from April 27, 2006. The energy industry is poised for another banner year in 2007 despite expectations that U.S. economic growth will slow and the worldwide supply cushion will expand. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File) ORG XMIT: NYBZ618
Published Jun. 20, 2018

Let's face it: With 21 million residents and more than 110 million visitors annually, Florida uses a lot of energy. From our air conditioning to cool our homes and businesses, to our gas tanks so we can drive to work, our entire economy and way of life depend on abundant and affordable energy.

Florida consumes far more energy than it produces and is one of the five largest energy consuming states in the nation.

Oil and natural gas make up 65 percent of the energy Americans use. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that number will grow to 68 percent by 2050. During the same time, renewable energy sources like wind and solar are estimated to only reach 14 percent of our total energy consumption.

While there is a moratorium in place within 125 miles of Florida's coast until 2022, we must look ahead to our energy and economic needs for the future. A recent political effort is focused on placing a 30-year ban on offshore exploration and development in state waters into our already cluttered state Constitution. These efforts ignore our current and future needs for additional energy production and could ultimately lead to much higher electric bills and gas prices.

We need to keep all options for energy development on the table, including offshore resources. Of course, we are mindful that any future exploration must be done in a safe and responsible way to protect the natural beauty of our state.

That's why we are proud to chair Explore Offshore, a new coalition of local organizations, associations, businesses and community leaders in several states, including here in Florida. Our hope is that Explore Offshore will unite and strengthen the voices that support a stronger U.S. energy future — and help to educate others on why domestic, safe and responsible energy production is so important to our state's future.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates that waters in the Eastern Gulf Coast of Florida contain more than 3 billion barrels of oil and more than 11 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. But because exploration has been banned for so long, those estimates are based on outdated data. With advances in technology in the last several decades, it's time to find out exactly what U.S. energy resources are available to us.

Economic studies show that the industry's spending would bring Florida $1.3 billion per year in government revenue within 20 years of opening up the area for oil and natural gas development.

We look forward to providing a voice for those in favor of keeping energy costs low and preserving our quality of life in the Sunshine State.

Jeff Kottkamp was Florida's lieutenant governor from 2007 to 2011, Miriam Ramirez is a doctor in Orlando and a a former member of the Puerto Rico Senate, and Wayne Harris served two terms on the Okaloosa County Commission and in the Air Force for 27 years. All three are co-chairs of Explore Offshore Florida.

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