Business Groups Support Drilling

One of Florida’s most powerful business lobbying groups is coming out in support of a controversial oil-drilling bill that would allow drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Associated Industries of Florida is backing the latest version of the bill introduced by California congressman Richard Pombo. AIF says the bill, which Jeb Bush helped negotiate, would ban drilling within 150 miles of Florida’s coastline.

The business group says the compromise is important because the skyrocketing cost of natural gas and oil is crippling industry.

Bob Burleson of Transportation Road Builders says money to build desperately needed roads is instead going into gas tanks.

“We as road builders are particularly dependent on diesel and gasoline fuel to operate our equipment, to move our supplies from one point or another, to make asphalt, to make cement, everything we do is heavily energy dependent, and as these costs go up, what happens is we get less road, less miles of road to the dollar that we spend and we can’t afford to do that.”

Environmentalists and others say any drilling off Florida’s coast would put the state’s beaches, and therefore its tourism industry, at risk.

Opponents in Florida’s congressional delegation, including Senators Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez, have so far successfully beaten back Washington’s push to open the Florida gulf to oil and natural gas exploration.