After years of promising to fight oil drilling off the coast of Florida, Governor Jeb Bush officially changed his mind on Tuesday. Like many public officials, he now believes it’s a necessary step to offset high gas prices resulting from hurricane damage to existing Gulf Coast drilling operations.
Increased oil drilling within the US – in the Gulf of Mexico, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, etc. – has long been touted as a way to help reduce our dependence on foreign (i.e. Middle Eastern) oil, so we no longer have to look to terrorist states to put gas in our tanks.
But foreign dependence is only part of the problem. Indeed, the problem is oil itself. It’s a non-renewable energy source (there are only so many dead dinosaurs) that pollutes the planet and eats away at our ozone layer. We need better choices.
With respect to new oil drilling, common sense dictates that the way to advance new energy sources is not to create more ways to get the old ones. It’s like trying to get someone to switch from cigarettes to chewing gum and having them tell you, “Ok, I’ll do that, but first I need to buy a few more cartons.”
We have seen some positive shifts away from completely oil-dependent cars in recent years, however. Some of the new gas-electric hybrids get 50 or 60 miles to the gallon. They still use gas, but they go farther on it.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Hummers on the road getting 12 or 13 miles per gallon. These immense, gas-guzzling, road-hogging, two-parking-space-usurping SUVs are very popular, even with single people who ride in them solo while chatting on their cell phones. Yet, even with the war in Iraq and climbing gas prices, Congress still refuses to compel automakers to increase fuel economy.
Also on this end of the spectrum are slick, flip-flopping governors who change sides on an issue that the populace clearly does not favor. Jeb would be wise to proceed carefully on this one. Fighting for oil rigs off Florida is a slippery slope, and he could fall and break something – like his political career.