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Tom Garcia: We need to drill for more oil to stay on road to energy independence

Without much fanfare, the United States now meets its own domestic natural gas needs, while also becoming the world’s No. 1 exporter of natural gas. At the same time, Americans still consume far more oil than our domestic resources can supply.

The gap in domestic oil requirements versus production is shrinking due to new techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. These technological advances are allowing the U.S. to produce more oil than it has in more than a decade — an important benefit for our economy and national security.

However, significant areas of both federally controlled onshore and offshore resources remain closed to oil and gas exploration and production. To achieve energy independence, these resources must be opened to development.

Recent industry estimates show that consumers could potentially save up to $5.8 billion in fuel costs between 2015 and 2035 based on continued domestic crude production. By 2020, the nation could gain 300,000 new jobs, roughly 11,000 of them in Florida.

The increase in local, state and federal tax revenue could help pay for education, health care, and transportation infrastructure.

Vets4Energy, a nationwide, nonpartisan organization of volunteer military veterans whose goal is to educate the public and advocate for sound energy policy, believes officials in Washington and particularly along the Gulf Coast need to consider the facts about new drilling techniques and more sophisticated technologies that can contribute to the United States’ energy surge. Vets4Energy is engaged in this issue because there is a strong link between energy independence and national security.

With the rise of ISIS, the constant threat of al-Qaeda, and unrest throughout the world, national security is takes on more importance for our country than any time in the recent past. Also of concern to veterans is that we should no longer accept that the “American interests” referred to when American troops are sent overseas is based on access to foreign oil.

We must have more access to federally controlled onshore and offshore resources to achieve energy independence. Seismic surveying of offshore resources is a positive first step. That work is now approved off the Atlantic Coast, including Florida, to build an updated catalog of oil and gas resources. These measures should also be approved for the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. The next step is to determine environmentally viable means to access those resources.

In the Florida Panhandle, the major resistance to offshore drilling seems to be concern over the Deepwater Horizon spill and drilling’s effect on military training in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

However, regulators and the industry have worked together to make significant enhancements to the safety of offshore operations over the last four years. Additionally, data from NOAA, BOEM and DoD suggests that more than half of the oil and gas resources identified in the Eastern Gulf could be accessed with little effect on military operations.

It is the Florida Vets4Energy position that with proper planning, military training and oil and gas operations are compatible activities. These are important issues that need to be discussed to continue our road to energy independence.

Retired Naval Commander Tom Garcia is the volunteer co-chair of Vets4Energy, which is sponsored by America’s Energy Forum, which is sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute. Column Courtesy of Context Florida.

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