Castor and Graham weigh in on offshore drilling bill
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09/15/08 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

Tomorrow in Washington, the House of Representatives is slated to debate a bill that would allow oil drilling 100 miles off the U.S. coast. It would also allow coastal states to decide whether to allow drilling as close as 50 miles off their shores.

It comes after a summer in which the Republicans have hammered away at the Democrats to include offshore drilling as a means to combat high oil prices. That push culminated earlier this month at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, when the mantra of "drill,baby, drill" became a signature statement.

Part of the bill would have included drilling closer to the shores of Florida, but a congressional delegation persuaded House leaders to preserve the current ban on oil and gas drilling near the state’s west coast.

WMNF asked former Democratic Sen. Bob Graham last week if he thought the GOP had been successful this summer in using high gas prices as a way to push the Democrats into a corner on the issue of offshore drilling.

Graham said when it comes to energy policy, yearning to get more fossil fuels isn’t ultimately about the environment or about safety issues, as it is about national security. He says those who advocate drilling now are in effect being selfish, in not thinking about future generations in the U.S.

Energy has become one of the leading domestic issues in the presidential campaign, as both major candidates have done an aboutface on whether to allow offshore drilling.

John McCain changed his mind as gas prices grew to record highs back in May. He still opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but his new running partner, Sarah Palin, does not.

By last month, even Barack Obama was saying that drilling should be part of an energy "mix," as has his VP nominee, Joe Biden.

Asked last week if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's willingness to put offshore drilling up for a vote means the Democrats have capitulated on the issue, Congresswoman Kathy Castor strongly disagrees.

Today the chair-elect to the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Keith Overton, said his group was urging Congress to "carefully consider the reasons behind the current status of off-shore drilling policies in the Gulf of Mexico, and to consider the broader potential economic and environmental impacts that could occur as a result of allowing for drilling nearer Florida’s Gulf Coast."

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