Facing South

Oil Addicts Anonymous: Gulf Chapter

On the same day that Texas oilman George W. Bush declared the country is "addicted to oil," a bi-partisan Florida delegation was gathering to propose a sweeping ban on the offshore oil-drilling heavingly promoted by George and brother Jeb Bush in Florida:

Alarmed by recent attempts to encourage oil and gas drilling off Florida's Gulf Coast, the state's U.S. senators are pushing for broader and permanent protection.

If it wins congressional approval, a bill crafted by Republican Sen. Mel Martinez and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson would keep oil rigs as far as 260 miles off Florida's West Coast. That's far more protection than any of the other drilling deals recently debated in Congress.

Environmentalists don't think the measure is perfect, since it would also open up natural gas exploration farther out to sea, but overall they view it as a net positive:

The reception [of environmental groups] was positive, attendees said. Mark Ferrulo, director of Florida PIRG in Tallahassee, which has been fighting drilling for more than 20 years, said his organization plans to back the bill.

"This legislation represents a laundry list of protections we've long fought for. It actually expands our current areas that would be protected, and makes it permanent," Ferrulo said.

Nelson and Martinez are lining up bi-partisan support from Congress and Gulf Coast governors. But they're hitting a significant obstacle: the Republican leadership in Washington:

But passing the bill will mean aligning some difficult political parts:

It needs the blessing of the Bush administration and congressional leaders, which have close ties to the oil industry. They include Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who favors more offshore energy production and who has sparred with Nelson over protections for Florida's coast.

I guess our Big Oil leaders need some more time in rehab.

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