WASHINGTON - Governor Jeb Bush yesterday reversed his long-standing opposition to oil and gas drilling off Florida coasts. Some members of Florida's congressional delegation have been negotiating a deal with House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) as part of an energy or budget bill. The following is a statement by Frank Jackalone with the Florida Sierra Club:
Governor Jeb Bush has long touted his commitment to protecting Florida's fragile Gulf Coast from destructive oil and gas drilling, a commitment he shirked yesterday. Governor Bush's move is a flip-flop for the record books, with Bush conceding oil and gas development in areas he had aggressively opposed for four years.
Floridians are deeply opposed to offshore drilling. We recognize that oil and gas development is a dirty and destructive business that damages coastlines, harms ecosystems, and limits other economic opportunities. Thus, we have long had reason to be proud of our strong Congressional and gubernatorial leadership in protecting our coasts. Governor Bush's flip flop today is of grave concern.
Big Oil has long coveted Florida's Gulf Coast, and the recent hurricanes are their latest excuse to push their controversial plans. Governor Bush and others should not fall for this ploy.
Those who would seek cover by negotiating a "deal" for drilling to occur 125 miles offshore are actually severely weakening the coastal protections our state currently enjoys. There should be no cushion for negotiating where drilling occurs.
America faces a stark choice in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Americans are grappling with record high prices at the pump and projections for steep heating bills this winter. Facing this challenge, we can either continue relying on the polluting and vulnerable infrastructure that led to our current energy problems - or we can embrace a new energy future.
In reality, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita spotlight the danger of our dependence on oil and the infrastructure that goes with it. Our reliance on oil and gas drilling -- and the knee-jerk reaction to throw up more rigs offshore -- is precarious at best. Offshore drilling brings routine pollution, and Florida's coasts are not immune to destructive hurricanes, as Charley, Andrew, Ivan, Frances, Jeanne, and Dennis illustrate.
Tourism is a pillar of Florida's economy, raking in over $50 billion a year. Florida is the Fishing Capitol of America, and our joint recreational and commercial fishing industries directly depend on a clean, healthy Gulf. These industries would be brought to their knees if oil started lapping up on our shores.
No matter how much of our natural heritage we sacrifice, we can't drill our way to energy independence. We can only achieve energy freedom for Florida and for our nation by promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy, and making cars go farther on a gallon of gas.