Environmentalists Question Offshore Drilling Plan
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Scott Finn, of member station WUSF, takes to Florida's beaches to gauge the risks and the benefits of drilling.
SCOTT FINN: Kathy Douglas power walks through the soft white sand of St. Pete Beach, past seagulls and rows of pale sunbathers soaking up the morning rays. She loves this beach so much, she moved here, and now spends her free time trying to stop offshore drilling.
KATHY DOUGLAS: So, why jeopardize all of this beauty and a tourism industry? So, why take the risk?
FINN: The risk isn't just for St. Pete Beach. A spill far offshore could foul beaches hundreds of miles away. But visitors Jane and Louis Pinto from Philadelphia, don't think it's much of a danger.
JANE PINTO: I think it's proven to be pretty safe. And if it's that far off, as long as it doesn't interfere with the tourists and the beach and everything. I think you have to do something besides just the green movement going to keep the economy going.
LOUIS PINTO: Basically to, you know, get off our dependency on foreign oil.
FINN: Environmental groups claim there's just a six-month supply of oil in these waters. But University of South Florida Geologist, Al Hine, says there may be more. The government's data is old and incomplete. And the industry is spending millions to explore deep waters far from shore.
AL HINE: The oil industry is, right now, to the best of my knowledge - I've seen the maps - out there shooting seismic. It's all proprietary data, it's extremely expensive. If they didn't think there was anything there, they wouldn't be spending the money to collect the data.
FINN: The oil and gas industry has responded to the president's move with muted praise and demands for much more. Here's David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council.
DAVID MICA: Of course, we in the industry, are hopeful that as we move forward, that consideration can be given to some other resource-rich areas. Nonetheless, that is positive.
FINN: Back on St. Pete Beach, Kathy Douglas calls it something else.
DOUGLAS: I definitely think it is a crutch. And it's a crutch because, if we have fossil fuels that are so easily available, then we cease to try to develop the technology that makes alternative energy affordable to the average person.
FINN: For NPR News, I'm Scott Finn in Tampa.
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