Offshore drilling opponents protest Gingrich

04/01/10 Matthew Cimitile
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Former Speaker and possible Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich hosted a jobs summit in St. Petersburg yesterday to promote ways lawmakers can create jobs now.

But his idea for more oil drilling was met by scores of protesters.

The jobs plan presented by Newt Gingrich at the American Solutions Real Jobs Summit was a conservative policy wish list: reduce government spending, balance the budget, lower taxes, and develop America’s energy supplies. This last idea proved the most contentious. Gingrich stated the need for more oil and natural gas drilling to get Americans working. He cited history in saying more gas would lessen costs.

“Jimmy carter knew we were running out of energy, we were all about to go about walking because we wouldn’t have any gasoline left, therefore we should all turn down the heat, turn down the air conditioning. Reagan comes in and the first thing he signs deregulates gasoline. Under Carter we rationed gasoline, you bought every other day based on the last number of your license plate. Reagan comes in, we have two years of total misery, we are in the middle of gasoline rationing, he deregulates gasoline and within six months there is a glut of gasoline production, the price collapses and we don’t notice it again until two years ago.”

Outside of the talk a couple hundred bay area protesters dressed in black to signify an oil slick. They chanted “Save our Coasts, No More Drilling” and held up signs saying “Spills Kill” and “Big Oil Keep Off Our Coast”.

Phil Compton is a regional representative of the Florida Sierra Club...

“Newt Gingrich is over here tonight telling Floridians that if we drill here, drill now we will have cheaper gas, and that is a myth, that is a lie. It won’t have any effect on the price of energy in Florida or any other state in the United States. America perhaps has about 2% of the world’s supply and we use a quarter of the world’s supply. So there is no way whatever we might squeeze out of the Gulf of Mexico would be but a drop in the bucket.”

Protester Kira Barrera said that there is tremendous resistance in Pinellas County against any offshore drilling proposal.

“We are here protesting in opposition of opening up the Gulf for offshore drilling and Newt is here promoting that and we want to let him know that Pinellas County came out 3,000-strong for Hands Across the Sand and we are not going to take this laying on our beach towels."

Gingrich’s job summit came on the heels of yesterday’s announcement by the Obama administration to open up offshore areas for drilling. Obama’s proposal calls for exploring along the Atlantic coast from Delaware to the central coast of Florida and large tracts of Alaska. Gingrich called this a half-step in the right direction.

“The President took a half-step today that must have been very interesting to watch the debate in the White House. But he took a half step. He said yes we really do need to look for energy in America, we need to look offshore, why don’t we start looking in about four years. Now my position is really simple. If the President agrees with what he says today and your not really sure of this. Then why wouldn’t you do it immediately. You have people who are out of work, why not try and create jobs in American now. Why not try and create energy in American now. Why not try and keep the money here at home now. So I’m for taking all of his principles but applying them this year to this country and we are going to try and convince the Congress lets introduce a bill, lets create the jobs here now, quit sending the money to Venezuela, quit sending the money to Saudi Arabia and Iran, keep the money here in the U.S.”

Many in the environmental community have also been disappointed with the President’s announcement. Lorraine Margeson is a bay area environmental activist who is ...

“Not happy at all. Fifty miles is nothing that’s a drop in the hat, when you are talking about if there is an oil spill. It's going to hit those coasts. One hundred twenty-five miles is too close to our Gulf Coast. The way the tides and the water work you’re going to get oil on your beaches.”

The summit provided ideas for job creation in a state with an unemployment rate of 12.2%. Developing more domestic energy is one of Gingrich’s major ideas he claims will create millions of new jobs and generate billions of dollars.

But Margeson and others are skeptical that expanding oil and natural gas drilling in the state will do anything to reduce those numbers or cheapen gas prices.

“Most of the jobs that are created by these kind of situations are created by refineries. We know very well because of our permitting processes and all of our existing aquatic preserves that you are not going to build any refineries on the Gulf Coast of Florida. So the oil would go to existing refineries in other Gulf Coast States. And job creation idea is just not true. The Collins center estimated maybe 1500 jobs would be created in this state by pursuing near-shore drilling. That is just not accessible to sacrifice the possibility of our true job situation that is existent, healthy and continued to grow tourism.”

The meeting was interrupted twice by a handful of protesters. They chanted about 9-11 being an inside job before they were escorted out by police.

American Solutions

Collins Center for Public Policy

USGS Assessment Oil and Gas in Gulf Coast States

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Don't give an inch!

President Bush and Bill Nelson opened up thousands of square miles for oil drilling and none of the "land" has been drilled. Now Obama is agreeing to open up more "land" for drilling. And the Florida Legislature study found that the oil available is small in terms of the world economy. It could never change the oil and gasoline prices; it could never reduce our dependency on foreign oil; it will not produce many jobs in Florida; and the owners of the drilling companies and refineries are not in Florida so corporate income taxes will not be collected here either. There is really nothing but risk for Florida. There is no upside at all. How can any Floridian actually see any benefit to drilling near Florida? When will the relentless pressure ever end? Even if they spill oil and ruin our seafood supply/industry and tourism they will still want to drill. We should not give them ONE MORE INCH!