Advocating for more oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico fewer than 10 years after the BP oil spill is a challenge, but the Consumer Energy Alliance says it’s a discussion worth having.
Houston-based Brent Greenfield, vice president for policy and offshore for CEA, has the talking points. The Trump administration last year ordered the Department of the Interior to promote more drilling. Oil prices have risen slightly since then, making the idea more attractive to oil producers. Under the initial proposal nearly all U.S. offshore waters would have been available for oil and gas drilling.
In October, the DOI announced its intention to conduct the largest offshore lease sale in U.S. history, proposing to offer nearly 77 million acres at an upcoming lease sale this month. Almost immediately, 22 senators from 12 states asked for exemptions from the drilling plan. Florida quickly won an exemption from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, drawing howls that the Sunshine State got a sweet deal.
Nearly every governor along the Eastern Seaboard has objected to the plan. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal was slightly more open but said he would need to study the proposal’s effect on tourism before making a decision.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is not on the fence. She says the lease sale “is not only in the best interest of all Americans, it allows Gulf Coast states, like Alabama, to utilize our natural resources not only to provide energy for our nation, but increased economic opportunities for our people.”
The state has been able to fund infrastructure improvements and environmental projects with oil revenue, drilling proponents say, at a time when the General Fund is running on empty. Gulf of Mexico energy activity supported 18, 000 jobs and $1.5 billion in Gross Domestic Product for Alabama in fiscal 2014, the CEA says.
Greenfield, 40, knows not everyone’s on board.
“It’s a winnowing process. Any areas taken out of the proposal can’t be added back later without an act of Congress or restarting the program from the very beginning, ” he says.
Expanded drilling supports a steady supply of domestic energy, job creation and state revenue, he says.
Greenfield says he believes the conversation will eventually end with substantially increased drilling in the Gulf, though there’s still a long process ahead, with time for comment periods and state consultations. Much of the actual energy realized from the proposed oil leases won’t reach market until the late 2030s.
“The decisions being made over the next year lay the groundwork for energy security we’ll have decades down the road, ” he says.
Text by Dave Helms