Associated Industries Counters Sierra Club on Offshore Drilling

A near-shore drilling measure in Congress has U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the Sierra Club and Associated Industries of Florida debating the merits of such a move on the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Nelson linked the plan for drilling off Florida's coast to national security. "The operative policy and law of the United States is to use much of the eastern Gulf of Mexico as the last remaining training range for our military pilots. Give that up to the oil boys and you sacrifice national security," according to his Web site statement. "Meanwhile, gas prices fluctuate wildly because speculators, who behave like condo-flippers, are allowed to buy and resell oil contracts. Until we stop that, we’ll continue to be gouged at the pump. Congress ought to be looking at that, and at a real alternative energy program - instead of trying to put oil rigs off the world-class tourist spots all along Florida’s coast," he added.

The Sierra Club delivered to Nelson a petition, which the group said has more than 3,000 signatures, in support of his efforts to fight offshore drilling. It also unveiled the report,

"This is the extreme environmental fringe speaking, the 7 percent who will not accept oil production under any circumstances," Bishop said. "The overwhelming majority of people in Florida support offshore production, and their support is growing. By refusing to even discuss a new, necessary and responsible energy policy, drilling opponents are hurting Florida, because we could wind up with zero revenue from the federal government."

Economist Hank Fishkind, principal of Fishkind & Associates, projects that offshore drilling and production could add from $7 billion to $41 billion a year to Florida’s economy, and create from 40,000 jobs to more than 230,000 new Florida jobs.

"We are talking about adding a new industry that could be as important as Florida agriculture. We would get that positive impact in addition to Florida tourism, not to replace tourism. There is a significant benefit to having both industries here, because oil production jobs would pay higher average wages than most service-oriented tourism jobs," Fishkind said.

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