Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Drilling for the truth in the oil drilling debate

We examine two claims from people on different sides of the debate about offshore oil drilling.
We examine two claims from people on different sides of the debate about offshore oil drilling.

Whether or not the eastern Gulf of Mexico is teeming with oil we can't say, but the drilling debate restarting in Washington and Florida is unquestionably fertile ground for fact-checkers.

One advocate for oil exploration is making his case by saying drilling has never been bad for tourism.

Ever.

And U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — who steadfastly opposes drilling — says that drilling miles off Florida's beaches does not guarantee America would be any more energy independent.

Not by one drop.

Can oil and tourism mix?

And would the oil found in the eastern gulf even be used here?

We recently examined statements from both sides of the offshore drilling debate.

Barney Bishop, whose group Associated Industries of Florida represents business interests in the state, says "there's no evidence anywhere that offshore drilling has hurt tourism in any area where it has been allowed."

But there is. There have been at least two drilling-related spills that have negatively impacted local tourism economies, studies show. We found Bishop's claim False .

Nelson, meanwhile, argued that any oil found in the Gulf of Mexico could be shipped somewhere else.

"Supporters of opening up the eastern gulf say that we need to do it to help get America off foreign oil," Nelson said in remarks on the Senate floor. "Tell me then why isn't there a clause in the drilling amendment that was passed specifying that all oil and natural gas that would be produced in the eastern gulf … stay in the United States for domestic consumption?

"But no, that's not there. Because the truth is any oil that would be drilled could be sent to any other country in the world, reducing our use of foreign oil not by one single drop."

Nelson is technically accurate. The American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, the official name for what most people call the energy bill, includes no restriction on where gulf oil could flow. But historically, almost all of the oil found in the Gulf of Mexico has been used domestically, government analysts say.

Oil industry officials say that won't change if further exploration is allowed.

As such, we rated Nelson's statement Half True .