Attitude Toward Florida Drilling Is Music To OPEC's Ears

Todd Shriber
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For those readers that do no live in the state of Florida, you may not be aware of the fact that members of Florida's state legislature have filed a bill to allow drilling within three miles of Florida's coastline. This has long-been a thorny issue for the Sunshine State and when Republicans held majorities in both houses of the U.S. congress, they tried to pass legislation that would allow drilling in what is known as the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

The problem with getting that legislation passed was that Florida's Democrats and Republicans were united in their opposition to drilling off Florida's coast. It may be an oversimplification, but only to a minor degree, that the crux of the opposition to Florida coastal drilling boils down to the fact that tourists would not continue flocking to Florida's beaches if they could see oil rigs while swimming and sunbathing. That and opponents to Florida drilling keep citing a recent study that claims the amount of oil that could be extracted off Florida would barely amount to a week's supply for the U.S.

Basically, opponents to Florida drilling are saying there isn't enough oil off the state's coast to make a significant impact on supply or costs to make it worthwhile to explore this avenue further. This has to be music to OPEC's ears as this is the very attitude that has been so pervasive in the U.S. for years and it has stymied efforts to ween us off foreign oil while capturing more of our homegrown energy resources.

This is why federal lands in the western U.S. have been closed off to oil and gas explorers. Drilling opponents just keep on saying there isn't enough oil or gas in these locales to make drilling there a worthwhile endeavor. It is as if they are saying that every new oil field in the U.S. has to be a new Prudhoe Bay, West Texas or Gulf of Mexico. Of course, this view of the world is myopic and misses the point.

You have probably heard the old math riddle about what is more lucrative $10,000 right now or a penny doubling itself everyday for a month. Our middle school math teachers would be proud if we all chose the latter option. The point is every new discovery on U.S. soil or in U.S. waters counts. A small one here and a small one there combine to create more jobs and lower our dependence on foreign oil. Make a few dozen of these supposedly small discoveries and we could make a real impact on our addiction to foreign oil.

Frankly, the argument that seeing oil rigs from the beach will scare tourists is stale and probably unfounded. Go to Huntington Beach, California, also known as ''Surf City, U.S.A.'' You can see a couple of rigs from the beach and that is in California of all places! The point is Huntington Beach is bustling with tourists every summer.

Of course, we cannot forget about Brazil. Every year, millions of international tourists flock to Brazil's beaches and few, if any, of them seem to be deterred by the visible oil rigs that have helped turn Brazil from an emerging market into one of the 10 biggest economies in the world. You can bet that when Brazil hosts the World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016 the beaches will be meccas of activity and only the most strident environmentalists will take note of the oil rigs.

Florida can keep going on its current course and it is the state's right to do so. Given that there is no state income tax in Florida, one would think it would be wise to capture revenue for state coffers in an another fashion. That said, it should be noted that Saudi Arabia said today it is going to raise the price of oil that it sells to the U.S. No one can deny that tourism is an important part of the U.S. economy and it is especially important to Florida, but as long as the U.S. does not control its oil destiny, it will not be rigs keeping tourists out of Florida, it will be higher gas prices.