Jim Nicholson: Energy Exploration Backed by White House Benefits Florida and the Nation

I’m proud to serve as a national co-chair for Explore Offshore, a coalition uniting more than 200 groups and individuals in support of domestic offshore energy development in the Atlantic and Gulf. Both areas should be retained in the final federal leasing program to strengthen America’s security and competitiveness around the world.

When the Trump administration included waters off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida in the draft version of its five-year offshore leasing program, it did so for good reasons.

The federal government estimates billions of untapped barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas lie in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf and Eastern Gulf of Mexico – reserves critically important to U.S. global strength and energy security for decades to come. As we await release of the final offshore leasing program, members of the Explore Offshore coalition call on the administration to keep these strategically valuable reserves in the program.

Today, natural gas and oil provide 67 percent of the energy Americans use, and they’re projected to supply nearly 70 percent of our energy in 2040. Given the leading role natural gas and oil play in our modern society, the administration has an opportunity to strengthen America’s energy security while growing its status as a global energy superpower by increasing access to reserves in the Atlantic and the Gulf.

Expanded development also would be an immediate economic benefit to coastal states and their residents even before the first barrel went to market. Safe offshore exploration could support close to 150,000 new jobs along the Gulf Coast, spur direct local investment by the energy industry and generate $2.5 billion in state and local tax revenue in Florida over the next two decades that could be used to improve roads, schools and other important infrastructure projects.

In addition to boosting the economy, offshore development can help support environmental initiatives, such as coastal conservation. Florida could see $12.5 billion over 20 years cumulatively through a federal revenue sharing program similar to those already in place in other states. Under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, federal offshore revenues shared with natural gas and oil producing states support coastal resiliency, conservation and restoration projects from natural disasters.

Members of the Explore Offshore coalition recognize the importance of operational safety and coastal environmental protection to Floridians. Offshore development is safer than ever. Industry has created or strengthened more than 100 offshore exploration and production standards since 2010 – focusing on environmental management, the latest in well design, safety measures and incident response protocols.

The industry is constantly improving offshore safety through technology, training, system redundancies and shared information. The Center for Offshore Safety was created in 2011 to enhance the offshore industry’s safety culture, collect instructive data and help individual operators set up safety management systems so that safe work practices and operational procedures may be implemented and maintained. The U.S. industry is a global leader in safety best practices and environmental stewardship.

Offshore development can safely coexist with other ocean uses in Florida, as it has in other places along the Gulf. Indeed, while the Gulf has produced on average more than a million barrels of oil per day since 1996, it also has supported a Gulf tourism industry valued at more than $200 billion a year. At the same time, we know from decades of experience working in the Gulf that offshore development can be planned and managed so that it doesn’t interfere with the needs of our military either.

Bringing the Atlantic Ocean and additional areas in the Gulf online for offshore development is part of a strategic, forward-thinking economic and energy security plan for our nation. Our military is the largest buyer of fuel in the country and often is called upon to access supplies and/or supply routes abroad.

The domestic energy revolution of the past decade has reduced our reliance on foreign imports of oil while also increasing America’s energy influence around the globe. U.S. crude oil production has added significantly to global supply, putting downward pressure on crude prices.

Meanwhile, surging domestic natural gas production has given the U.S. the opportunity to be a leading global supplier through the export of liquid natural gas to friends and allies, reducing the power of other suppliers who in the past have used energy as a political weapon. Expanding access to domestic offshore resources would help in both of those areas.

It is clear the administration continues to prioritize domestic energy development as a means to bolster economic strength and national security, and we applaud this priority. The program put forth in January of 2018 that included areas in the Atlantic and Eastern Gulf was a smart program that would open areas critical to our future as an energy and economic leader, while benefiting consumers in Florida and across the country.


Secretary Jim Nicholson has led a long and distinguished career both in the public and private sector. Nicholson most notably served as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs under the George W. Bush Administration, and he also served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. During his tenure as ambassador, Pope John Paul II knighted Mr. Nicholson for his leadership on human rights issues in Europe. He was a director of New Community Development Corporation and Commissioner of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS), both Presidential appointments. He was also the chairman of the Federal Interagency Council on Homelessness.

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