Jane Van Ryan
Posted January 26, 2010
In today's episode, I speak with Col. Marty Sullivan about energy and military operations coexisting in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Col. Sullivan is president of the Commonwealth Consulting Corporation, which just completed a study commissioned by Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE) on proposed offshore oil exploration in the Eastern Gulf and its impact on training missions.
Use the audio player below to listen to information about the article and follow along with the show notes. I hope you find the podcast informative.
01:34 There have been concerns over the past few years, particularly since 2005, when Secretary Rumsfeld sent a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee indicating that oil and natural gas exploration and military operations were probably not the best things to do in the same area. So at that time, it was understood by the committee that this was an issue that might have been settled. As it turns out, and as SAFE discovered, there isn't quite the impact that the military once thought there was.
02:16 We used the Department of Defense's (DOD) reports for looking at their training ranges, determining their capabilities, and whether they were impacted by encroachment. We determined the Department of Defense didn't have the proper processes in place to determine whether oil and natural gas exploration could occur with military operations. We found oil and natural gas exploration in the Eastern Gulf would not impact military operations there.
03:10 There are several Navy bases in that area and also a couple of Air Forces bases. There is Eglin Air Force Base, which is a large Air Force operational and test and evaluation site; Tyndall Air Force Base, which is also an Air Force operational area; the Navy's Naval Surface Warfare Center at Panama City; and the Naval Air Station Pensacola, which is the home of naval aviation training.
03:40 Of the four bases that I mentioned, three of them are primarily involved in aviation training and aviation testing and evaluation. The Naval Surface Warfare Center at Panama City does a lot of work for surface warfare, obviously, mine and special warfare.
04:31 What the Air Force is concerned about, and what they have publicly said, is that they are doing live air-to-air missile firings against unmanned drones. They're concerned that debris from missile impacts would fall into a rather large area over the water. However, they use only specific areas for that type of testing.
05:12 Those areas are primarily near Tyndall Air Force Base and Eglin Air Force Base, just to the east of Tyndall in the Panhandle. They're fairly close to shore because the aircraft that the Air Force uses don't have an excessive amount of fuel on board. They don't take these Air Force airplanes into the middle of the Gulf to do this testing necessarily. These particular ranges, the warning area 151 and warning area 470--"whiskey areas" as they're called in the military--have been looked at very closely for any type of impact that they might have on oil and gas operations.
06:12 There are regulations in place now that give the federal government the opportunity to engage with oil and natural gas companies and determine the military operations and oil and gas exploration operations that should be conducted in these areas. So I don't necessarily think that additional oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Gulf would impact military operations to any great extent.
06:46 We found that there's a significant amount of potential oil and natural gas deposits in that area. If exploration finds natural gas and oil, with the improvements in oil and gas exploration technology, we should conduct exploration without any impact to military operations.
07:42 (In response to what offshore drilling means for national security): It means an awful lot for military security, national security and military operations. All the different platforms that we use today, whether they are ships, aircraft, ground vehicles or unmanned aircraft, use oil-based, petroleum-based fuels.
08:57 I believe that there could be oil and natural gas exploration off the coast of Florida. The concerns about the possibility of spills and oil and gas platforms interfering with their views can be mitigated through communication between the state, local and federal authorities and commercial suppliers.
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