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Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010 5 years ago

Key resident pushes for oil drilling

by: Kurt Schultheis Managing Editor

Emerald Harbor resident and retired geological engineer Dr. Weldon Frost says oil-and-gas drilling off the shores of Longboat Key is a no-brainer.

But the 37-year Mobil Oil employee is quick to point out that he doesn’t believe oil will spout anywhere near the island’s shores.

Still, Frost doesn’t think it hurts to look.

At a Longboat Key Public Interest Committee debate on oil drilling held Thursday, Jan. 28, at the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort, Frost sparred off against Tallahassee-based Natural Resources Defense Council consultant Susan Glickman.

Glickman opened the debate by explaining an amendment filed in the Legislature last year to open up a former moratorium on offshore drilling on Florida’s Gulf Coast would destroy the state’s biggest industry.
Weldon, however, disputed Glickman’s claims by calling himself “a victim of his own experience.”

The retired geologist, who oversaw approximately 60 offshore drills with no incidents, said he was as much of an environmentalist as anyone else in the audience of approximately 55 people.

Frost said that 49,000 wells have been drilled in the Gulf, and there are currently 81 working oilrigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

“But the future of oil rigs in the Gulf is in deep water,” Frost said. “Forty-one of the 81 working rigs are in water depths of 1,000 feet and 15 are working in water depths of more than 5,000 feet.”

Frost stressed that he believes drilling is the right thing to do.

“This country imports approximately 70% of oil, while the Department of Energy that President Jimmy Carter created has grown to a budget of more than $24 billion,” Frost said. “We have no energy leadership.”

Frost said it bothers him that the United States spent $265 billion last year buying oil and spends $100 million per day to get oil from Venezuela.

But Glickman said Florida shouldn’t consider oil drilling, because the United States only has 3% of the world’s oil reserves.

“We can’t drill our way to energy security by getting a limited amount of oil,” Glickman said. “What we have to do is get away from oil.”

Glickman did agree with Frost that there’s not a whole lot of oil to be found between 3-to-10 miles off the Gulf coast.

“And if oil is found more than 10 miles offshore, the state couldn’t even get any money from the drilling rights because it’s currently not a revenue sharing state,” Glickman said.

And although the state’s energy association claims more than 24,000 jobs could be created if oil drilling is allowed off the coast, Glickman was quick to point out that even Frost said that only about 1,000 jobs would be created if oil were found off the coast.

Said Glickman: “Twenty-two oil wells were drilled off the state’s coast years ago and they all were dry. So why are we thinking about spending money to open up drilling where there’s no oil?”

Weldon, though, said he thinks companies should continue to drill everywhere.

“I think there’s a lower risk from oil spills than having two years of red tide back to back,” Frost said.

Frost received laughter from the audience when he said he found it funny that beach communities have no problem building a 10-story condominium “on a strip of pristine beach.”

“But those residents have no problem complaining about a tiny light that they see nine miles out on an oil rig at night,” Frost said.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]

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