Pensacola, Florida
Monday September 16th 2019

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Outtakes—Are You Kidding Me?

By Rick Outzen

Last week, President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, Jim Webb, visited Pensacola and invited the media and community leaders to “learn more about offshore energy development,” according to the invitations.

Webb is the co-chair of Explore Offshore, a project of the American Petroleum Institute (API), the national trade association that represents the natural gas and oil industry, so it wasn’t difficult to divine what he would be hawking at the luncheon in the Pensacola Bay Center.

The former senator tried to convince the locals that we shouldn’t worry about drilling in the Gulf of Mexico near our beaches. He hinted that Floridians were selfish and unpatriotic in our opposition to the expansion of offshore exploration, which he said was a matter of national and economic security.

While Congressman Matt Gaetz has been adamant that drilling in the Gulf would have a detrimental impact on the missions of the military bases in Northwest Florida, Inweekly reporter Jeremy Morrison reported that Webb called Gaetz’s position “one of the misnomers going around in this community” and said it was more political than strategic.

And though API members stand to make millions, possibly billions, if they were allowed to drill in the Gulf of Mexico off the shores of Florida, Webb tried to convince the audience that profits didn’t drive offshore expansion. He insisted he was working for the “national good.”

Sure, Mr. Webb. Maybe you should also sell a few timeshares as part of your presentation. They, too, were once considered great deals.

On April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded about 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11. The platform was owned by API member British Petroleum, who told us four days after the explosion that about 1,000 barrels of oil per day were leaking from the wellhead. A week later, the Coast Guard increased the estimate to 5,000 barrels daily.

BP misled the public to believe the well could be quickly capped. We reported otherwise. Engineers told Inweekly that the only way to stop the flow was to drill another well.  Underwater cameras revealed the BP pipe was leaking oil and gas on the ocean floor. By the time the well was capped on July 15, an estimated 3.19 million barrels of oil had leaked into the Gulf. The actual leak was over 36,000 barrels a day.

The first tar balls hit our beaches on May 23. Crews in hazmat suits worked through the night for over two months cleaning the beaches so national television crews would show white sand during their morning broadcasts on Casino Beach. Our economy was wrecked.

Mr. Webb, we don’t want to go through that nightmare again. Please take your road show elsewhere.