Don't Rig Florida Coalition holds rally listen09/02/08 Concetta DeLuco
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The term â€œoffshore drillingâ€ was the ticket to free admission into the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Saturday evening. The tiny aquarium, known for its sizeable rehabilitative work with marine animals, invited visitors to attend a discussion about the upcoming vote in Congress on Sept. 12 that will determine whether drilling will be allowed within 50 miles of the Florida coastline.
Despite inclement weather, hundreds attended the public event sponsored by the Donâ€™t Rig Florida Campaign, a coalition of conservation organizations formed to oppose offshore drilling in Florida.
Phil Compton, regional representative for the Sierra Club, said â€œTexas and Louisiana already made the deal with the devilâ€ in permitting offshore drilling; and, he says, inevitably drilling off the coast of Florida will have the same devastating effects on the environment.
The attractive beaches in the gulf coast region of Florida have supported a $53 billion tourism industry that employs 965,000 Floridians, plus $20 billion for marine and fishing industry.
Jim Fish, the District 28 state representative, said he recognizes that tourism is the backbone of the gulf coastâ€™s economy. And while he and the other representatives from Florida, Fish said will be voting against drilling in Florida on Sept. 12, Florida is only one in fifty states that will be voting on the issue.
Maxi Schlereth, has been an intern and volunteer trainer at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium since 2006. She said offshore drilling will directly affect the mission of the aquarium as a rescue, rehab and release facility and operation of the aquarium as a non-profit organization.
The push for drilling off the coast of Florida has been fueled by the idea that more oil will lower the current gas prices.
Joe Murphy, Florida director of the Gulf Restoration Network, said that it will be 10 years before 220,000 gallons of fuel are even available for use. Our problem, Murphy said, is that as a nation we consume 25 percent of the worldâ€™s fuel, but only produce 3 percent of it.
Compton of the Suncoast Sierra Club said Americans need to keep in mind that we are not the only nation that will have access to that fuel. American oil companies export 1.6 million barrels a day, Compton said, and we need to â€œkeep American oil in America before we risk ruining our beachesâ€.
Tom West has several family members fighting in the military and he said there is no simple solution to our energy crisis in the near future.
Andrew Swann is a native of Pinellas County who grew up enjoying the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. He said he believes numerous alternative fuel sources are available.
The members of the Donâ€™t Rig Florida Coalition have dubbed Sept. 9 National Day to Call Congress. The group is encouraging people to either contact Congress directly, send an email and/or educate our friends and family to take some action and oppose offshore drilling before it is voted on Sept. 12.