Drilling opponents are guilty of the same NIMBY approach that people like Ted Kennedy and use to oppose development of wind power off the coast of Cape Cod:
In an about-face, Gov. Jeb Bush is backing a plan allowing limited exploration for oil drilling off Florida's coastline.
"My position is if we can get an assurance to extend a 100- to 125-mile swath from Pensacola all the way to Jacksonville to protect our beaches, then we ought to try and get it. We don't have that today," Bush said.
While the current moratorium on offshore drilling is set to expire in 2007, there is no law banning drilling entirely. Opponents of the governor's plan on both sides of the aisle would rather see an outright ban on drilling for the entire eastern Gulf of Mexico.
"...it would hurt Florida's economy by messing up our pristine beaches," said Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat.
But drilling has been permitted for decades off other parts of America's coastline, such as Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alaska and portions of Southern California. One oil industry expert says that after two seasons of hard-hitting hurricanes, it's time Florida contributed its share.
According to proponents, there is enough untapped, natural gas in the Gulf to power as many as 60 million American homes for the next hundred years. But opponents say the risk of oil spills and pollution could damage Florida's tourism-driven coastal economy.
"Mother Nature dictates where you site a wind farm, and Nantucket Sound has some of the best wind resources in the United States," says Gordon. "[It] is an optimal site to locate a wind farm that can produce at peak output all of the electrical requirements of the cape and islands, without any pollution emissions, without any water consumption and zero waste discharge."The one notable difference is that any project off the Florida coast would appear to be at least twenty times as far from shore as the Cape Cod windmills - and even the windmills would be so far away that they would appear to be no more than a half-inch tall (click here for graphics).
...The campaign to stop the wind farms was started by Cape Cod merchants and wealthy landowners. It's also opposed by almost every town government. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who has a home overlooking the proposed wind farm, also opposes the project.
If an obsession with tourism is considered more important than energy production, this knee-jerk prohibition on the development of needed energy resources should have consequences. Florida or its consumers should be charged a premium for any imported oil or gas that could have been replaced by domestic production. The proceeds can be used to benefit states that are willing to try for at least some modicum of energy self-sufficiency but are still stuck paying the higher prices caused by nonproduction.
Update, Nov. 6th: Although penalizing anti-production states might be attractive, it may be barred by Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution - the plain text of which is ambiguous. The better solution remains to allow energy production as federal policy regardless of the demands of neighboring states. In Florida's case, drilling would take place far outside of state waters.