Economic Impact to Local Businesses Exists with Offshore Development

Julio FuentesJust two weeks ago, I was in Jacksonville to attend a luncheon sponsored by the First Coast Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Petroleum Council. The subject of the presentation consisted of discussions regarding offshore energy development. Many of the attendees were local small business owners who were curious about the economic benefit offshore energy exploration would have to their business. The numbers were staggering, and we learned the many layers of benefits to Floridians.

Most of us travel each day to and from work, charge our cell phones and wash our clothes – all using energy. All these conveniences and more have been done with relatively low cost, thanks in large part to the production of energy in America. We are currently the top producer of oil and natural gas.

Many consumers, myself included, sometimes take energy industry’s innovations for granted. We neglect to consider what our lives would be like without it – a sad reality for those in other parts of the world. We also are not as educated on where our energy is actually coming from.

Floridians consume over 20 million gallons of gasoline every single day. Our population is growing, and that means our energy needs are, too. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nearly 75 percent of our state’s electricity is generated from natural gas. That’s why it is crucial to continue to support many forms of natural gas and oil exploration and development.

The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (FSHCC) has always supported an “all of the above” energy approach, meaning we believe all forms of energy should be used so long as it can be done safely. We simply cannot afford to exclude any form of safe energy production, especially if we want to maintain robust energy supplies for consumers, add jobs and revenue to the economy, and keep our nation secure from volatile foreign nations.

Offshore development is a proven way to extract energy from beneath the ocean floor, which is then processed and consumed. Before any potential drilling occurs, scientists conduct seismic surveys to determine if an opportunity for exploration exists in a certain area. This is done with rigorous permit requirements to help protect marine life. In fact, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has seen no evidence of harm to marine animal populations from seismic surveys, and this is a process that has been happening for more than 80 years – of course today with much better technology.

If potential energy resources are identified following seismic surveys, and an oil and natural gas production company is interested in investing the millions of dollars needed to drill an exploratory well, it jumpstarts another very extensive and rigorous permitting process that requires companies to adhere to many federal statutes and regulations from government agencies.

The economic impact studies on offshore development estimate creating 56,000 jobs in Florida and up to $4.5 billion per year to our state economy. Many of those jobs are in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields and pay much higher than the national average – the average salary for someone working in the oil and natural gas industry is more than $100,000. Floridians deserve those opportunities.

Local businesses benefit from low energy costs and additional job creation. One example during the luncheon was brought up from a small business owner of a clothing boutique. How would they benefit? Well, more people employed within the community would increase the potential for people to shop there. Also, uniforms are needed for many working offshore and this business could supply those items to meet a new demand.

This is a topic with many conflicting views, and that is why education and conversation surrounding energy production, such as offshore exploration, are imperative. In order to have a rational and productive debate about this topic, it is important for us to have all the facts, and to be willing to listen to both sides. Our recent luncheon event was a great learning opportunity, and we look forward to hosting similar discussions across the state. I encourage Floridians to join us and be part of the conversation.

It is important we remain open to the opportunities that may exist for safe offshore exploration in federal waters as it is an essential part of keeping Florida’s future bright.

Julio Fuentes, President and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.