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Bill Nelson on Offshore Drilling


Many people from Louisiana to Florida are upset and worried about how bad the oil spill is going to be. Believe it or not, some people think we should still put rigs right off Florida. I presented what I think is a reasonable view in USA Today. Hope you get a chance to read it and let me know what you think.

Opposing view on energy: Halt offshore exploration

By Bill Nelson

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."

That's what Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman said in 1986. Judging by recent events, it's more true today than ever.

The failure of the Deepwater Horizon test well in the Gulf of Mexico is a horrible tragedy. But hopefully, it will be something from which we gain wisdom.

We still don't know how bad it will be, but some scientists say the Gulf loop currents could take this oil to the Florida Keys, and then to the southeast part of the state.

BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, acknowledged to me that economic damages will exceed the current $75 million cap on liability for drilling accidents. So I've joined with Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey to introduce legislation to raise that cap to $10 billion. I've also joined with Rep. Kendrick Meek of Florida in calling for moratoria on offshore oil exploration and drilling in new areas. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar likely will adopt changes I and others have asked for regarding the regulators who inspect oil rigs, investigate oil companies and enforce safety regulations.

Meantime, the scope of this crisis in the Gulf should prompt the president and all lawmakers to re-examine Big Oil's safety claims and call for a halt to the industry's push for drilling in new offshore areas.

Over the past four decades, I've fought the industry's immensely powerful lobby in Washington to keep oil rigs away from Florida and other coastal states. I've argued that a big spill could not only harm Florida's tourism-driven economy and unique environment, but also usurp the country's last major military training and testing range in the eastern Gulf.

Whether offshore drilling ever becomes safer, there just isn't enough oil in the eastern Gulf or along most of the Atlantic seaboard to justify the enormous risks from a blowout, spill or shipping accident, like the Exxon Valdez.

On the broader energy issue, America must lessen its reliance on foreign oil. But there's no need to expand drilling into new areas. Oil and gas companies right now have some 31 million acres under lease in parts of the Gulf where they aren't even drilling yet.

The ultimate answer to America's energy needs lies not in oil, but in the rapid development of alternative fuels.

And I think we can help pay for an accelerated national energy program by ending the billions of dollars in giveaways to Big Oil, by making sure it pays all its taxes and royalties.

Bill Nelson, a Democrat, is the senior U.S. senator from Florida.


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Larry Hardiman

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