One More Time: Why Florida Needs the Keystone Pipeline
Around the State
An underreported story in the Capitol last week was Tuesday's rotunda press conference supporting the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Bad timing, maybe, but there was good reason to give the issue special attention at the center of state government, in perhaps the most critical week of the legislative session.
The pipeline isn't just a federal issue. It is vitally important for Florida. The quality of Florida's future depends on it.
I've written a lot of stories on the pipeline -- on its benefit to the nation, on the 59 additional safety measures beyond the ones required by federal law, on the five separate environmental reviews that certified the pipeline would have minimal effect on the environment.
I've provided all kinds of facts and figures to show why the White House should end the delay and approve construction of the 2,151-mile pipeline. But I have never written about Florida's stake in all this and why Floridians should care.
After the press conference at the Capitol last week, I got a chance to talk with Kevin Doyle specifically about the pipeline and Florida.
Doyle, executive director of Jacksonville-based Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida (CEA), the state affiliate of a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, makes it his business to study the Florida economy and what makes it work. Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to the board of directors for Workforce Florida and in 2013 Doyle was promoted to vice chairman of the Performance Council. That allows him to serve as a member of the Workforce Florida Executive Committee.
Doyle insists Floridians do care and have shown it.
“It may not get the publicity it deserves," he told me, "but what CEA and Associated Industries of Florida did is work together to submit to Washington more than 24,000 comments from Floridians who support the pipeline. Floridians have clearly said to the administration -- 'we need jobs, we need a stronger economy, and we need to build the Keystone XL Pipeline.'”
Doyle said, "Even (Florida Sen.) Bill Nelson, a Democrat, recognizes what it means to our state. Last year he signed an amendment attached to a budget amendment in favor of the pipeline.
"It passed the Senate 60-37 -- the Senate, where Democrats dominate and generally support White House policy. On this issue, they clearly don't."
But, just three days ago Politico reported Nelson has flip-flopped, now saying he can't vote for the pipeline because there's no provision in the bill to ban exporting the oil.
Here's why Doyle calls the Keystone XL Pipeline "a Sunshine State priority" and why he called last week's press conference:
Getting here, leaving here
No wonder in the ranking of the most petroleum consumptive states, Florida is third behind Texas and California.
The Sunshine State plain isn't the travel dawdle No. 50 Connecticut is. Miami to Pensacola takes a day's car ride and a minimum of two fill-ups. Electing to fly, now with fuel surcharges built in, plane tickets that were $200 at the end of the last century are $400 or more today.
"No state is as reliant on tourism as we are," Doyle said. "It's a huge part of our economic engine. And gas prices affect every sector of the Florida economy, but none more than tourism. All kinds of related businesses, from hotels and restaurants to boating and fishing ... they not only have to keep their doors open, they have to be competitive with other tourist destinations.
"Gas prices are shooting up again," Doyle explained. "Pipeline gas will help reduce and stabilize Florida prices. Right now we're utterly dependent on Venezuelan and Middle Eastern oil."
Gulf Coast refiners will turn Canada crude into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, home heating oil, propane and kerosene.
Florida's military presence
There are 21 military bases in Florida, almost all of them in coastal zones and heavily reliant on petroleum products. Consider that the U.S. Department of Defense is the largest oil-consuming government body in the U.S. and in the world.
Not only is our national defense predicated on a ready domestic oil supply, the girth of the state's military presence down the road greatly depends on fuel prices.
"Petroleum, natural gas, renewables -- they're important, all of them," said Doyle. "But right now we have do what we can as fast as we can to protect the interests of the Sunshine State and the military presence we rely on. Every dime more the government has to pay for oil is something Congress is under pressure to take away from the military, to balance it out. Florida can't afford to risk losing any of its military bases."
Our Canadian friends
According to investment figures from a 2012 study commissioned by the government of Canada, more than 200 Canadian companies have invested $3 billion-plus in Florida, while providing direct employment to more than 26,000 people.
Florida also exports more to Canada ($4 billion in goods and services) than it imports ($3.6 billion in goods and services).
In addition to trade, some 4 million Canadians visit Florida every year, contributing nearly $4 billion to the state economy. That boosts job creation here. In fact, Miami-based Beth Richardson, head of the Political, Economic and Public Affairs Section, Consulate General of Canada, addressed the press conference gathering last week.
I asked Doyle what more we in Florida can do to help convince President Obama to move ahead with the Keystone XL Pipeline.
"I think things like (Rep.) Mike Hill did, sponsoring HM 281, the Memorial that passed the Florida House, and then passed the Florida Senate -- that's going to send a message to Washington that the White House needs to put politics aside and end the construction delay," he said. "What would also help is if more of us sent letters to Washington. All I can say is, this is huge.
"The pipeline means $20 billion in new economic growth for the U.S. economy and 42,000 jobs -- apart from the 9,000 construction jobs -- and we believe Florida will see a fair percentage of that."
The Keystone XL Pipeline isn't just about Canada and Nebraska and Washington. It's about 19 million Floridians, citizens of the third largest state in the country, who deserve a government that acts responsibly and looks out for their quality of life -- not for its own political games.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.