The following op-ed from David Batt, Executive Director of Consumer Energy Alliance – Florida, appeared in The Gainesville Sun newspaper and may be viewed here.

April 5, 2010   On behalf of the Consumer Energy Alliance of Florida (CEA Florida), I applaud the Obama Administration’s proposal to open areas of our nation’s waters to offshore oil and natural gas exploration. Increasing our access to these important resources will not only help the United States keep energy prices stable, but will assist in achieving energy independence.

Currently, our country imports nearly 60 percent of the oil we use and sends billions of dollars to foreign countries each year. As we face a massive budget deficit combined with high unemployment rates throughout the country, offshore exploration seems like the next logical step for our nation.

In the Eastern Gulf alone, estimates suggest there could be more than three billion barrels of oil and nearly 17 trillion cubic feet of gas. Opening this area will certainly help the United States develop a comprehensive energy plan.

The President’s plan takes a positive step toward keeping our energy prices down while the sale of offshore leases will bring additional revenue that will surely help stimulate our economy. I urge Congress to lift the moratorium on drilling so we can begin utilizing these leases in our waters.

While I appreciate the President’s effort to develop a plan that addresses our domestic opportunities, I am disappointed that it will not take effect until 2012 and worry it will delay planned lease sales already scheduled to take place before 2012. Furthermore, the President’s plan cancels lease sales that have been scheduled in Alaska. This is problematic because the state holds important energy resources that could play a vital role in decreasing our nation’s reliance on foreign oil.

It is my sincere hope the administration will continue to advocate for offshore oil and natural gas explorations, while further consideration is given to opening up other parts of our nation’s waters that contain oil and natural gas resources. CEA Florida supports reasonable, thoughtful and balanced solutions to our nation’s energy challenges. The key to meeting these challenges is to diversify our energy portfolio and tap into all the resources we have available, including oil and natural gas.