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Naples Daily News: Commentary: Florida must invest in solid energy future

Monday, February 06, 2017

By Barney Bishop, Former president and CEO, Associated Industries of Florida

Each year brings new challenges, opportunities and goals – and Florida is a state that continues to grow exponentially year after year.

In fact, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2016 annual report, our population increases by 1 percent annually, bringing an additional 1 million people to Florida every five years.

We are fortunate that our great state continues to flourish. However, we will need to continue to invest in things like energy infrastructure if we want to continue to live, play and work here in the Sunshine State.

Energy infrastructure is key to positive economic growth and helps keep our lives operating – from our alarm clock in the morning, traveling to work each day, feeding our families and charging our phones at night. The convenience energy provides is unparalleled, and its advancement is now more important than ever.

The first step to exploring future fuel opportunities is gathering information, which allows scientists to pinpoint our energy resources. One safe way to do so is through seismic testing — a proven and efficient means to determine energy potential in the ocean.

Seismic testing, which began in 1937 in the Gulf of Mexico, offers a detailed analysis of underwater structures through 3-D data, like a CAT scan of the ocean. Low-frequency sound pulses are used while scanning the ocean floor and identifying potential locations of hydrocarbon association.

Additionally, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has stated there is no documented scientific evidence that seismic testing causes harm to marine animals since its inception 80 years ago. This method helps us locate where we have supply in order to then determine if we should gather it for energy usage. President Donald Trump and his new administration should consider future exploration, so that we can continue to become energy independent.

Infrastructure investments in energy could stimulate the economy and put more than 8,600 Floridians to work during the construction phase alone. Furthermore, it could save our taxpayers more than $600 million in hard-earned money as these developments in energy would result in lower gas prices and reduced utility bills. Additionally, taxes paid by industry companies would substantially increase Florida’s state tax revenue, which can be put back in the community by improving our schools, roads, water and more.

In addition to adding jobs and saving money, having a domestic oil supply will reduce our reliance on foreign products. It would give our country more energy independence, which also helps to further protect our national security.

One safe and viable option to maintain our way of life is to ensure access to oil and natural gas. We need to find where we have supply, via seismic testing as an option, and then decide where and when to safely obtain those supplies. Thankfully, the United States has the resources and should be able to begin exploring what is out there, at a minimum.

Investing in our energy infrastructure is an efficient, reliable and a cost-effective way to supply America with the ability to drive and keep the lights on – and those are two examples of thousands.

Floridians deserve the opportunity to benefit from the millions of dollars and jobs this could bring to our great state. I urge all of you to take the time to learn more about the widespread economic impact of energy infrastructure by getting involved with the Florida Energy Forum, a growing community of citizens dedicated to educating the public about how a balanced energy approach is in our best interest.

More information:

Bishop is president and CEO of Barney Bishop Consulting, a strategic public affairs firm based in Tallahassee.

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