Leslie Turk

Bush: end offshore drilling ban

by Leslie Turk

This morning President Bush did an about face on his longstanding position to ban coastal drilling, saying in a press conference that he wants to allow states to determine where drilling should occur.

The move comes in the wake of $4-a-gallon gas, which has become a heated issue in the 2008 presidential campaign. The president has a growing number of Republicans lining up with him, though the proposal faces tough opposition from Democrats and environmentalists who are also upset with another one-time ally on the ban, Sen. John McCain.

McCain used a speech in Houston yesterday to say he now favors coastal drilling. Florida’s Republican governor, Charlie Crist, says he also now wants an end to the ban. Sen. Barack Obama immediately fired back that McCain had flip-flopped and given in to the oil industry.

The New York Times reported that in Washington, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said Bush would urge Congress to “pass legislation lifting the Congressional ban on safe, environmentally friendly offshore oil drilling,” adding, “The president believes Congress shouldn’t waste any more time.”

The Times story also noted: "Mr. Bush has long advocated opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to drilling, and in 2006 signed into law a bill that expanded exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. But the topic of coastal drilling has been an extremely sensitive one in the Bush family; Mr. Bush’s father, the first President Bush, signed an executive order in 1990 banning coastal oil exploration, and Mr. Bush’s brother Jeb was an outspoken opponent of offshore drilling when he was governor of Florida."