Oil drilling plan having impact on election

08/08/08 Mitch E. Perry
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A week ago in Washington, a group of 10 senators -- five Republicans and five Democrats -- calling themselves “The Gang of 10,” announced a bipartisan plan that they said would break the country’s energy stalemate.

The highlight is $84 billion in tax credits and subsidies for alternative fuels and renewables. The plan intends to pay for it in part by eliminating $30 billion in tax breaks for energy companies and requiring that the federal government get its cut of revenue from Gulf of Mexico oil leases. U.S. consumers will receive tax breaks up to $7,500 for buying vehicles that run on alternative fuels.

But problematic for some are provisions for offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and Southeast Atlantic. That makes it unpalatable for environmentalist in Florida, like Mark Ferullo of Progress Florida.

The language in the Gang of 10’s proposal would cut the current protection that Florida has from a 125-mile buffer zone to just 50 miles.

Although Democrats and opinion writers have made clear that it would probably take at least seven years for any oil to be produced from drilling off of Florida’s Gulf coast, that doesn’t seem to be deterring the American public. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed 60 percent of Floridians support the idea.

House Speaker Marco Rubio has just released a video on the Internet advocating for citizens to sign the petition, “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less.“

Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman also supports offshore drilling, saying it will have a "downward effect" on oil futures. He is not part of the Senate’s Gang og 10 – but wants it part of a comprehensive energy he says is necessary for Congress to pass now.

Hours after the Gang of 10 released itsr agenda on Aug. 1, Barack Obama said he supported the basic provisions in it, including the idea of considering offshore drilling.

Mark Ferrulo from Florida Progress says he’s not too worried that Obama or the majority of Democrats will follow the Republicans on the issue, even though its gaining in popularity as gas hovers around the $4 a gallon mark.

Both Florida senators have vehemently objected to overturning the 2006 law that prohibits drilling within 125 miles of Pensacola and 234 miles of the Tampa Bay area. Pinellas GOP congressman C.W. Bill Young said he prefers a 100-mile buffer zone.

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