The eastern Gulf is vital to the world’s energy security | Opinion

Times-Picayune | Eric Smith | October 2, 2017

How can it be that the United States is a global energy superpower and still denies access to vast natural gas and oil resources that lie beneath most of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf?

There is nothing more important for the future of energy security in the world than the question of whether, given the share of fossil fuels in the global energy mix of about 81 percent, our country opens up huge offshore areas now closed to exploration and production.  One of the most crucial areas is the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which extends 125 miles off the west coast of Florida and includes the Destin Dome, a geological structure estimated to hold large reserves of natural gas.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates that the eastern Gulf contains 11.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 3.6 billion barrels of oil.  For Louisiana, a decision to lift a decades-old ban on drilling in this energy-rich area would create more than 31,000 jobs and generate spending in Louisiana of nearly $19 billion through 2035, according to a study by Quest Offshore Resources. Since only about half of the personnel who work in the Gulf actually reside in Louisiana, there should be equivalent gains in neighboring states as well.

Yet, despite President Donald Trump's action in April to open up new areas of the Atlantic and Arctic to gas and oil development, 98 percent of the eastern Gulf remains off-limits under a moratorium most recently renewed during the Obama Administration.  That moratorium is due to expire in 2022, the same year the federal government is scheduled to finalize a new five-year drilling plan.  Unfortunately, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is pushing for passage of a measure to extend the moratorium through 2027.

Read the full op-ed here.

Eric Smith is Professor of Practice at Tulane Energy Institute and has 35 years of experience with onshore and offshore drilling, construction and financing activity.

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