Oil Spill Not Changing Many Minds In Congress

by Bradford Plumer | May 10, 2010

So is the Gulf spill actually changing anyone's mind about offshore drilling? It depends where you're looking. In Florida, sure, it is. A handful of conservative state legislators have recently been rethinking their pro-drilling stance. Charlie Crist, who's running for the U.S. Senate, is now rethinking drilling. And, as Brad Johnson notes, GOP State Rep. Greg Evers was once a huge fan of putting up new rigs right near the Florida panhandle shore. Post-spill, though, he's starting to think the risk to the state's beaches isn't worth it: "You have to understand: this is our way of life. These white sands are our way of life. We must protect them at all costs."

But Florida seems to be an exception. There haven't been nearly as many conversions in Congress. Greenwire recently asked dozens of senators if any of them are having second thoughts about offshore drilling and only Colorado's Mark Udall said he was starting to rethink his support. Everyone else is pretty much digging in. Longtime drilling skeptics like Florida's Bill Nelson are hollering twice as loud now. And drilling supporters like Louisiana's Mary Landrieu—or, Nelson's GOP colleague in Florida, George Lemieux—are sticking to the same refrain: Yes, the spill's a tragedy, yes, we need more safeguards, but let's not do anything drastic…

In any case, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman are still planning to unveil their big climate bill this Wednesday. But right now it's not clear that the Gulf disaster has really jumbled up energy politics at all. If anything, the two sides seem to have hardened their positions and made a compromise on drilling even less likely. And the White House, oddly enough, is staying awfully circumspect on this issue.

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