As we've seen over the last two months, oil is an important, dangerous, and troublesome part of this economy and our lives. The BP oil spill that began in April has shown us the danger of offshore drilling specifically, and the risk in oil as a source of energy in general.
We should use the public's increased awareness of the risks of oil as a catalyst to act to save our environment while still protecting our economy. We cannot afford to wait any longer to take decisive action to change our relationship with oil.
During this spill we have seen, more clearly than ever, that offshore drilling has a serious impact on our environment. The effects on our waters are apparent in the endless footage of the black plumes of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. And the spill is having a real and negative impact on animals and plant life, too. As the oil makes landfall, it is radically altering and destroying the habitats of many shoreline plants and animals.
At the same time, we must also keep in mind that offshore drilling poses a threat not just to our environment, but to our economy. As Floridians, this is especially true. Florida's tourism economy is $65 billion a year because our environment is unique: Florida's coastal region includes 85% of the continental United States' coral reefs and the country's largest wetland is the Everglades. Combine that with our incredible beaches and our great sport fishing and you can't find these resources anywhere else.
As the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and the subsequent spill has shown us, drilling --even hundreds of miles away from Florida's coast can easily bring oil along Florida's western and eastern coasts via the Gulf loop current. In recent years there have been multiple proposals to bring drilling closer to Florida's coast line --some proposals were as close as five miles off of both of Florida's coastlines. Just imagine if a spill like the BP disaster had been closer to Florida, the damage to the wildlife, wetlands and beautiful beaches of our state would have been unimaginable. Add to that the impact on our $65 billion a year tourism-based economy and the affect it would have on the numerous families who would lose their jobs and businesses and the impact would be devastating.
Unfortunately, with oil continuing to leak into the Gulf, we still are not in the clear.
Worst of all is the fact that the obvious danger of expanded drilling would not even contribute substantially to the United States' oil demands: The amount of oil production projected from expanded drilling off of Florida's coasts would do next to nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Adding a fraction of a percent to the global oil supply will not lower gas prices, for Floridians or anyone else. This discouraging statistic demonstrates that we need more than a Band-Aid fix: we need to systemically change our approach to energy.
We should seize upon this tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico and truly put America on the path to a sustainable energy future. Instead of expanding coastal drilling and still continuing to depend on foreign energy, we should begin to find new sources of energy. Our country needs to run on something other than oil. We need to find new energy solutions. With that will come new economic growth, new opportunities for employment, and new scientific discovery.
Wind turbines, bio-fuels, and solar power are examples of cleaner, job-creating alternatives to oil. If we were to introduce these alternatives as practical, viable sources of American energy, we could create thousands and thousands of new jobs. We could employ Americans in the fields of engineering, as well as construction and upkeep--jobs that can't be outsourced to other countries.
Not only would we create jobs, but building a smart grid throughout the United States would invite more scientific study into smarter, more efficient forms of energy. This could lead to the creation of small businesses, vying for the newest and cleanest energy technology.
It is important for us to remember that we don't need to choose between a clean environment and a thriving economy. We can have both. In fact, employing new forms of energy will help employ Floridians, as well.
And, as the high-speed rail initiative has already demonstrated, we can create more public transportation options that reduce our environmental impact while creating new jobs as engineers, contractors, and researchers. Simple solutions such as these will be the small, immediate steps that aide the larger process of moving away from oil. These are everyday actions that you can help with.
Ultimately, we need to find a cleaner, more responsible source of energy. I know that we can. The United States is full of citizens who care: Intelligent men and women like you who are not just capable enough, but dedicated enough, to find a better, more sustainable solution than offshore drilling. And doing so doesn't just mean we won't have to clean up oil from the ocean--it will mean a better, healthier, safer life for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come.
If you need help, you can reach my office in Pembroke Pines at (954) 437-3936, in Aventura at (305) 936-5724, in Washington, DC at (202) 225-7931.