July 30, 2010
By TOM FOWLER
It took 40 years for the oil industry to get out from under the shadow of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil well blowout, but just 100 days to cover itself with the dark clouds of a new industry-crippling accident.
Just weeks before BP's Macondo well blew out on the night of April 20, the Obama administration signed off on a plan to expand offshore drilling to federal waters off the Florida Coast and in the Atlantic Ocean. That was considered a milestone for the industry, which had seen its activities largely limited to the Gulf of Mexico since the 1969 blowout sent oil onto California beaches and captured national attention.
Public support for offshore drilling hit a high-water mark just before the BP spill, too, as a Rasmussen Poll in early April found 72 percent of Americans in favor of it.
Those gains fell as the quantity of spilled oil rose.
The Department of the Interior canceled new drilling lease sales, imposed a moratorium on new deep-water drilling and set new requirements for shallow-water wells.
A Rasmussen Poll earlier this month showed support for offshore drilling had dropped to 56 percent. . .
Certainly the spill has given opponents of drilling in waters off the East and West Coasts, as well as the Gulf Coast of Florida, an emotionally compelling way to appeal to their political base, said Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University.
"But most Americans are consumed with pocketbook issues," Bullock said, "and don't want to see higher gasoline prices or fewer jobs" - both likely to accompany a lengthy drilling ban.
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