Florida governor Charlie Crist is hitching his caboose to the McBush Flip-Flop Express. It is a terrible move. If Crist persists in it, that is likely to haunt him for the rest of his days in politics.
Two years ago, as Pensacola area experts pointed out to Congress here and here and here, there were no good reasons to let loose the drilling rigs in near-shore areas of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. While we cannot say there will never be a reason to drill there -- never say never, after all -- the recent spike in the price of gas at the pump cannot be a reason to justify the terrible risk to Florida's environment.
First of all, near-shore Gulf drilling yields predominantly natural gas and not oil. Any impact on the price of crude would be greatly attenuated at best.
Second, as Sen. Bill Nelson says, "There isn't enough oil in the U.S. to make even the smallest dent in world oil prices, which largely are being run-up by unregulated traders and speculators, including the oil companies." Our thirst for oil has become so severe all that we have in the ground or under the sea can no longer slake it.
Third, even if it were otherwise the oil industry itself admits it would take at least ten years before it could begin drilling new wells -- even if it wanted to.
Finally, oil companies don't want to drill more themselves, at the moment. They aren't fully exploiting what they have now. As the Tampa Tribune reported recently, "thousands of permits for drilling on federal lands and waters have been issued but have not yet been used."
The hard truth is, as Pensacola's own Enid Siskin has said so cogently, "We cannot drill our way to energy independence. It’s only through conservation, increased efficiency, and use of a combination of alternative, renewable energy sources that we’ll ever be self sufficient."
Any politician who says otherwise either is a fool -- or thinks you are.