I promise, I’ll get back to blogging later this week. Things have just been really busy, and in a good way. Meantime, here’s the midweek piece I wrote for The Jacksonville Observer.
The Hill, and several other media sources, are reporting that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has voted to open up areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling.
“Oil and gas producers will be able to drill within 45 miles of the shoreline. The previous demarcation point came 125 miles from the panhandle coastline and roughly 230 miles from the Tampa area.
Companies will also have access to Destin Dome, an area particularly attractive to companies. Nelson’s office said that cut put drilling just 10 miles from the coast.”
Senator Bill Nelson threatened a filibuster of the energy bill in the full senate. The area potentially contains trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, and billions of barrels of oil.
It’s very interesting that a Democratically controlled senate would vote to open up the Florida coast to drilling. It had been a point of some contention during the Presidential campaign. Oil was $140 a barrel, and the chorus of “Drill Here, Drill Now” was long and loud. As oil slid back under $35, and the campaign ended, things got much quieter on the drilling front. Now, as part of an overall energy policy, drilling off the coast of Florida is back in the mix, and I’m surprised, but not displeased.
Don’t expect oil rigs to pop up off Florida’s west coast tomorrow. Not only does the energy legislation have a long way to go before it becomes law, but the oil companies would have to find the best places to drill and establish the drilling rigs. One of the arguments against drilling during the campaign was that it would take a long time to bring the oil to market. Getting fuel from biomass or algae will take a long time as well, and solar, wind, and other renewables are also a long way from being economically viable. Drilling is what we know how to do.
Still, any good energy policy has to include conservation. For now, there’s oil, but not too many generations down the road burning less is going to be a requirement. American’s will rise to the challenge, as we are wont to do. But the shrill chorus of “you’re moving the wrong direction” by approving drilling apparently does not understand the concept of a “comprehensive” energy plan.
I’ve been reading about fuel conservation efforts and alternative fuel ideas being tested by airlines, a major consumer of fossil fuels. Not only are engines being tested on biofuels and algae-based fuels, but later this week, an American Airlines flight will use what’s called “NextGen” GPS-based navigation to fly more directly from Paris to Miami. The shortest distance between two points being a straight line, that will by definition use less fuel. Using less is the point. A comprehensive plan that increases domestic production (making more) while stressing conservation (using less) could actually result in reducing our dependence on foreign oil. It doesn’t take Steven Hawking to do that math.
It’s encouraging to see increased production being included in a comprehensive energy plan. Democrats know Republicans are faced with something of a Sophie’s choice on this bill as it stands now. Dems gave the GOP the drilling they favored in order to get their energy bill. That didn’t stop 5 Republicans from voting “no” in committee, a little surprising with oil creeping back up to $70 per barrel. Eventually, they’re going to have to learn that “no” isn’t always the right answer. That would be easier if they thought there was any chance that they might get a fair hearing from the majority, but Congress doesn’t exactly work that way right now.
In any event, no drilling rigs will be parked off the Florida coast in the near term, and the legislation will likely undergo many changes before it might become law. But at least it’s being talked about. It’s part of the discussion, and to make any progress on our dependence on foreign oil, it needs to be.