By Susan Glickman, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
As Floridians watch Hurricane Isaias develop, we shake our heads about recent reports that the Trump Administration plans to push oil drilling closer to our coasts after the fall election. That’s why a bipartisan group of Florida Members of Congress are working to protect our shores.
What President Trump fails to understand is that any expansion of offshore drilling is a bad idea for three simple reasons: it’s risky, few people want it, and it’s just not needed.
The risk has been crystal clear since the unthinkable happened a decade ago when BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, killing 11 workers and setting into motion 87 days of disaster as the world watched 200 million gallons of oil gush into the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil and tar balls washed up on Panhandle beaches and a 1,000-mile wide swath of coastline was polluted by oil. Livelihoods were threatened and lost, cleanup workers were sickened, and wildlife and the environment were devastated. While catastrophes of this scale don’t happen every day, their enormous impact lives on.
The spill and its economic impact on tourism-dependent coastal communities are a big reason Floridians strongly oppose more offshore drilling. In fact, 69% of Florida voters in 2018 rejected offshore drilling by passing Amendment 9, banning drilling in state waters in Florida’s Constitution. More than 90 local Florida governments have passed resolutions opposing either offshore drilling or the dangerous seismic airgun blasting exploration that precedes it.
Even Trump’s biggest supporters in Florida, including Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, have publicly opposed drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. The military opposes it and with hurricane season underway, it’s clear that oil spills from offshore platforms or refineries is the last thing we need when preparing and recovering from hurricanes.
And, the bottom line is that the amount of oil that could potentially be produced by expanding offshore drilling would not meaningfully increase our nation’s energy security nor would it lower the price we pay at the pump.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates the Eastern Gulf holds just 1% of the nation’s technically recoverable oil. While this small amount of recoverable oil is not enough to meaningfully benefit Floridians, it does pose a major threat to our coastline, our economy, and our way of life. All it takes is one botched oil well to cause a disaster.
This risk has been understood for decades, and the good news is that electric vehicles are becoming more and more affordable and popular. So why risk drilling?
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy examined this question – whether electric vehicles could address any perceived need to expand drilling to areas currently protected, like the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. We calculated that adding as few as 4 million electric vehicles would offset what gasoline might be produced by drilling in the Eastern Gulf. Nationally, as few as 18 million electric vehicles would offset any gasoline that could be produced from the Eastern Gulf, Atlantic, and Pacific combined.
It takes 10 to 15 years to develop offshore oil projects, so the earliest oil could be produced in new areas would be the early 2030s. The gasoline saved by the transition to electric vehicles could match what could be produced in that same timeframe.
The EIA estimates that 250 million cars and light-duty trucks will be sold from 2020 to 2035, so if just 2% to 4% of them are electric, all the gasoline that drilling in the Eastern Gulf might produce would be offset. What’s more, if 7% to 19% of national sales are electric vehicles, it would offset any potential gasoline production from the combined areas of the Eastern Gulf, Atlantic, and Pacific.
Projected adoption rates are not a given, so we must actively pursue a cleaner future with purchasing decisions and public policy actions and reject Trump’s stunningly reckless attempt to jeopardize Florida coasts.
Advancing a future with clean electric transportation will not only save our coastline from the impacts of offshore drilling, it will foster cleaner air, protect public health, and lower transportation costs while creating jobs and a just, clean energy transition.
Susan Glickman is the Florida Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy cleanenergy.org
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.