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Politics

Oil Industry Lobbyist Applauds Rick Scott Stance on Drilling

September 6, 2011 - 6:00pm

The head ofFloridas oil lobby applauded Gov. Rick Scotts statement that further oil drilling around the Florida Everglades should be done with extreme caution.

However, David Mica of the Florida Petroleum Council said Wednesday he wished Scott had called for more drilling to lessen the countrys dependence on foreign oil.

I wasnt in the governors office prior to his speech ... but I am strongly advocating we expand our domestic drilling, including in different areas of Florida, Mica said.

On Tuesday, Scott told members of the Economic Club of Florida -- with Mica in attendance -- the state needs to be very cautious about expanding oil drilling in the Everglades or anywhere else in or near the state.

Scott noted that oil drilling has been taking place since 1943 in the 729,000-acre Big Cypress federal wildlife preserve adjacent to the Everglades National Park in eastern Collier County.

After Scott's speech, his press secretary, Amy Graham, stressed that the governor was not calling for an expansion of drilling in the Everglades.

That discussion is not on the table, Graham said.

Scotts comments came on the heels of GOP presidential contender Michele Bachmanns Aug. 28 call for additional oil drilling in the Everglades and elsewhere to expand Americas energy production.

Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham, in a statement released Tuesday, stated that while there are currently no efforts to drill in the Everglades, such effort would face widespread opposition.

While new technologies featuring horizontal and directional drilling could expand exploration without limited impact on the environment, Mica couldnt say if any oil company is on the verge of expanding plans to drill in Florida.

When it comes to the actual decision-making process, those are held in pretty confidential terms by the competitors in the industry, Mica said. They dont like to talk about where they are going to go next because of competitive pressures and economic pressures.

As for the oil that is currently being pumped in Southwest Florida, Mica said it is heavier than the West Texas intermediate grade of crude oil, also known as Texas light sweet, which is considered the benchmark for oil.

Still, the Big Cypress oil can be refined, whether it is shipped to a refinery or used for a road base, but thats really secondary when crude is selling for $85 a barrel, Mica said.

Since 1943, the state has producuced 596 million barrels of oil.

The United States consumes about 18.7 million barrels of oil a day, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Mica noted that political wills were different when oil was first discovered in Florida.

The governor and Cabinet in 1938 or '39 created a prize of $50,000 to whoever discovered oil in Florida, Mica said.

The company that found the oil would donate the prize money evenly between the University of Florida and the Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee, later Florida State University.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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