Florida Vets4Energy: Nation’s economic security, safety at risk due to drilling, oil exploration ban

Vets4Energy in Florida is spreading the word that the current ban on drilling and oil exploration off the Atlantic coast is making America vulnerable.

“One of the big issues right now is the president has shut down drilling off the Atlantic coast,” Tom Garcia, a former U.S. Navy commander and volunteer chair of Vets4Energy in the Sunshine State, told Florida Business.

The ban on drilling is not permanent, but it’s President Barack Obama’s way of making a statement, Garcia said.

Some of the greatest concerns Vets4Energy has with the inability to drill for oil is the risk oil dependence has on the nation’s economic security and national safety.

“If we are relying on other countries for our oil and even our allies are relying on other countries when we could actually be providing it, then we are not as secure as we'd like to be,” he said. “Most of us who are members of Vets4Energy have either been in the Gulf, fought in the Gulf, been involved in issues that had something to do with oil; and most of (us) remember the oil embargo back in the '70s when Jimmy Carter was president and how that affected the (economy).”

In 1973, members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) declared an oil embargo, which spiked the price of oil from $3 per barrel to almost $12 globally by the end of the embargo in 1974, causing an oil crisis. The second oil crisis occurred in the U.S. due to decreased oil output following the Iranian Revolution.

“The federal government gets to play a role and it just depends on who is in charge as to whether we are going to be energy independent and help out our allies,” Garcia said. “But the sad thing is when our allies have to buy oil from Venezuela or Iran or anywhere in the Middle East or Russia. It gives them a certain uncertainty about future energy supplies, and yet we could be supplying them and our companies could be making that money. To me that is a real shame.”

America, which protects other countries and its allies, may be put in a position of having to provide more countries with more protection, instead of simply suppling them with a stable source of energy, Garcia said.

“We have a resource that other countries want and we’ve just been sitting on it and not doing anything with it, and that is just one reason we have trade imbalance with our countries – (its) because they have certain resources and one of the resources they want from us we’re just not utilizing,” he said.

Florida has been going back and forth on issues such as seismic testing offshore and fracking. Garcia said there are certain parts of Florida where fracking could be useful, but not throughout the state.

“For political purposes these politicians want to look like they are protecting the environment and so they write a bill that will ban fracking at the local level, whereas at the state level that has not occurred and current state law doesn’t regulate it," Garcia said.

Advocates of the oil industry in Florida have been trying to get the state legislature to put together some regulations that would allow fracking in areas where it makes sense. But any kind of legislation must be concise so there is a clear understanding of what is allowed, Garcia said.

“That is where local jurisdictions are jumping in, because there is no local jurisdiction, and attempting to pass laws that would ban it,” he said.

For now, Florida will continue to be caught in the middle of the offshore drilling debate and the consequences of the ban.

“No company is going to come into Florida until that gets sorted out," Garcia said. "Florida really needs to stop,  get its act together and decide,” Garcia said. “Are we going to generate some revenue and put people to work with a resource that may very well be very abundant here; we don’t know that yet? Or are we just going to sit on the sidelines?”

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