Skip to main content
Sarasota Wednesday, Sep. 25, 2019 10 months ago

Oil: villain or lifeblood?

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 248-120 on a bill to ban permanently oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

You can’t go a day, maybe not even an hour, without hearing someone invoke “climate change.”

And in the course of any reference to climate change, the speakers turn the conversation against fossil fuels. They are the Darth Vader of the world — evil, bad, destructive — and should be banned!

Likewise, oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Talk about an issue to which an overwhelming majority of Floridians can unite: banning oil drilling off the coasts of Florida. What immediately comes to mind is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Understandably, that alone would make almost every Floridian agree to a permanent ban on oil drilling off the west coast of Florida.

But as with everything, banning drilling or chanting for 100% renewable energy, choices come with consequences:


Don’t ban it permanently

Earlier this month, before all of Washington, D.C., became obsessed with Ukraine, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 248-120 on a bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Francis Rooney of Naples to ban permanently oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

All of Florida’s 27 House members except one (Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville) voted for the bill, including our local representatives, Republicans Vern Buchanan and Greg Steube. Buchanan was one of the 12 co-sponsors from Florida.

The bill was a simple change. Existing legislation imposed a moratorium on “leasing, preleasing or any related activity” within 125 miles of the Florida coast until 2022. Rooney’s bill struck the date, thus making the moratorium permanent.

The bill has been sent to the Senate. But over there, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has sponsored a bill, with Sen. Rick Scott as co-sponsor, that would extend the moratorium five years, not permanently.

As most of us know, banning oil drilling in the Gulf has been as emotional politically in Florida as climate change has become nationally. Rare is the federal or state political candidate in Florida who has the guts to say he or she would support oil-rig platforms 125 miles or more out in the Gulf of Mexico. Talk about political suicide.

The argument against drilling in the eastern Gulf is always framed two obvious ways: economic and environmental. If there is another Deepwater Horizon spill off the coast of Florida, it would be disastrous to both. Indeed, the memory of the BP oil spill and its effects are so etched in people’s minds, how could anyone think it would make sense to allow drilling in the eastern Gulf ever?

What’s more, with public brainwashing becoming so anti-fossil fuel and pro-renewable energy, with the advent and success of fracking and the fact the U.S. is now energy independent, you have the additional argument there is no need to drill in the eastern Gulf.

But who knows the future? You know the saying: Never say never.

There still could be a day when the U.S. needs the oil and gas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. And increasingly, there is data showing that the risk of oil spills is declining.

In a 2016 study of oil spills over past 40 years by ABS Consulting for the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, researchers presented the following conclusions:

  • Oil-rig platforms spills: “The platform spill record has been improving. The trend analysis on large spills, excluding hurricane spills, did not reveal any disruption of this improvement. Furthermore, analysis of the minor spill size categories showed a matching trend, with spill rates gradually reducing over the past several decades.

“Equipment failures caused the greatest number of platform spills from 1971 to 2015, but the number of spills attributed to equipment failures has been steadily decreasing since 1975. Over the same time, spills associated with production operations have dramatically declined.”

Of course, we all know the Deepwater Horizon blowout, which spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. It’s the extraordinary outlier, like the 100-year Category 5 hurricane. But this is worth noting: Deepwater Horizon has been the only major platform spill since 2010 and the only spill of more than 10,000 barrels in more than 30 years.

  • Pipeline spills: “The analysis team found that the number of large pipeline spills tended to decrease from 1971 to 2015,” the ABS study said. Researchers did note this: hurricanes. They have caused a majority of the pipeline spills in the past 15 years — in particular in 2004, 2005 and 2008. We remember those years.
  • Tanker spills: “The number of spills worldwide and in U.S. waters for tankers and barges dramatically decreased after 1990 and has continued to gradually drop, even though crude oil movements have increased since the 1980s,” the study said. “Worldwide, tanker spills tended to occur more often at sea than in port.”

The point is technology has continued to improve over the past four decades, thus reducing the risk of spills. Nothing, of course, will ever remove 100% of the risk. But there are no guarantees for anything (except death and taxes).

Indeed, there is no certainty renewable energy will ever completely replace fossil fuels. Nor is there certainty that there will never be another U.S. or world energy crisis.

Although it’s politically and emotionally appealing to ban oil drilling permanently in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, isn’t it more prudent to keep your options open? Rubio’s extension is the wiser course.


Climate crusaders blind to reality

As we are told every day, “climate change” is this nation’s and the world’s No. 1 existential threat. It’s a crisis, all of the Democratic presidential candidates say. We only have a decade to live if we don’t change our ways. And we are ruining the next generations’ future.

It’s grating and, well, annoying. At every turn of a news page or TV news clip: “Climate Change” … “Sea-level rise” … “Global warming.”

But ask the average working Sarasotan to explain how climate change is negatively affecting his or her daily life. The answer is likely to be it’s not. But then given the incessant hysteria, that same person likely will say in the next breath, even though he or she has no evidence, “But it will.”

So we’ve been told.

But the climate crusaders have been saying this for decades. And they will likely point to events including the floods in Houston and Hurricane Dorian now as evidence.

To which we might say: Remember Noah and his ark? Climate change has been going on a long time and will continue to go on.

Now, don’t misunderstand. We believe everyone should be a good steward of the environment. No one wants to live in a dirty, dying world. But the hysterical demands shouted by last week’s demonstrators ignore and are blind to rational thinking and reality.

Take “100% renewables.”

No doubt the person carrying that sign has no idea what that would entail to achieve and the consequences to get there. We’ve seen an analysis by the American Action Forum, a center-right think tank in Washington, D.C., that said a 100% renewable energy grid would require Americans to pay, on average, between $575 and $3,882 more per year per residence on electricity.

That’s just the increase in cost for electricity in homes. Now imagine the multipliers — the higher costs businesses would pay to keep the lights, heat and air running in their buildings and factories. And businesses don’t just absorb higher operating costs. They pass those costs on to consumers.

Not only would residential electric costs go up, the cost of just about everything would go up as well.

In contrast, think how the despised fossil fuels we use — the fuel that powers the world population’s energy needs — have allowed millions and millions of people to rise out of poverty and improve their standard of living.

With that in mind, ask some struggling single mother or a retired widow on a fixed income whether she wants to keep paying what she’s paying now for electricity or whether she wants to pay $575, $800 or $1,000 more a year for electricity that comes from renewable energy.

We are not denying there is climate change. But this craziness about the existential threat of climate change always reminds us of the wisdom of economist Thomas Sowell:

There are no solutions, only trade-offs.

Related Stories