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In GOP Debate, Santorum Dodges Floridian’s Concern About Offshore Drilling

By Climate Guest Contributor  

"In GOP Debate, Santorum Dodges Floridian’s Concern About Offshore Drilling"

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by Kiley Kroh

Floridians have long been wary of offshore drilling – evidenced by a two-decade ban on drilling in state waters – due to the potentially devastating impact on the tourism industry.

During last night’s Florida Republican presidential debate, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was asked whether a few thousand jobs from increased offshore drilling is worth the risk to the state’s vital tourism sector.

Santorum responded by avoiding the issue, showing his strong support for more drilling in a roundabout way, while making a completely bogus connection to pipelines and tankers:

Moderator: “Senator Santorum, here in Florida, BP is still airing apologetic appeals on television, but there are proposals to expand offshore oil drilling. The state’s most optimistic estimates say more drilling would create 5,000 jobs, but an oil spill would threaten Florida’s tourism industry, which employs nearly 1 million people. Is that worth the risk?”

Santorum: “What threatens the tourist industry in Florida, as we’re seeing, is a very bad economy — and a very bad economy that became a bad economy why? Because of a huge spike in oil prices in the summer of 2008. So energy is absolutely key to keeping all of our country healthy, specifically Florida, which is a destination. This is a place that relies on people being able to travel and afford to travel to come down here,” Santorum continued, “it relies upon an economy being strong.”

“It is absolutely essential that we have as much domestic supply of oil, that we build the Keystone pipeline, that we create the jobs that — that that would create, and provide oil from domestic sources. Pipelines that run on the floor of the sea or pipelines that come through America are the safest way to transport oil. It is tankers that are causing — that cause much more problems. Pipelines are the safe way. Building those rigs, piping that oil into — into — into our shore is the best way to create a good economy for the state of Florida.”

Santorum’s response completely ignores the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster – a spill caused by an exploratory drilling rig, not a pipeline or a tanker. And many Floridians might take serious issue with his assertion that “building more rigs” for oil is the best way to grow their economy.

Tourism is Florida’s leading industry, employing around 1 million people and accounting for more than one-fifth of the state’s total sales tax revenue and 9.3 percent of the GDP. In 2009, the Everglades National Park supported 2,792 jobs and over $165 million in economic benefit, according to figures from Headwaters Economics – another reason many Floridians don’t want offshore drilling.

Oil spills and other disasters are inevitable consequences of offshore drilling, and the Deepwater Horizon disaster took a huge toll on Florida’s economy, particularly the tourism sector.

The spill hit when Florida was already struggling with the recession and an 11.4% unemployment rate.  In Franklin County located in the northwestern panhandle, tourism in July 2010 declined by 25% from the previous year, according to the county’s tourism bureau.  According to the Tampa Bay Times, “while Visit Florida, the state’s tourism agency, has not pegged an exact dollar figure for losses related to the spill, last summer [2010] many Panhandle hotels and restaurants reported seeing sales down by 50 percent in the peak summer months.”

In Florida alone, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has paid nearly $1 billion in lost earnings claims from individuals and over $1.5 billion in lost profits to businesses in the hotel, food, rental properties, fishing, and tourism industries.

Santorum and other GOP candidates should remember which state they’re speaking in before touting policies that put such a large amount of jobs and economic activity at risk.

Kiley Kroh is Associate Director for Oceans Communications at the Center for American Progress

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9 Responses to In GOP Debate, Santorum Dodges Floridian’s Concern About Offshore Drilling

  1. prokaryotes says:

    “.. into our shore ..”

    BP approves of this message, mission accomplished!

  2. prokaryotes says:

    Gulf of Mexico’s Offshore Oil Platform Wind Potential

    There are over 6000 natural resource drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, all of which will become obsolete once their deposits are extracted. The goal of this study was to examine one of the possible alternate uses for these platforms, wind power potential. Specifically, the study examined how many existing platforms were situated in shallow enough water to all for expansion wind farms using the platform as the base site.

    The Gulf of Mexico’s wind conditions are more then adequate to existing platforms as the base location to situate the turbines while providing the ability for expansion of wind farms around the platform as necessary. http://www.colby.edu/environ/courses/ES212/atlasofmaine/projects_pdf/ES21205_gulfwind.pdf

  3. Joan Savage says:

    In Santorum’s bogus scenario, recession and gas prices were the enemy of the Florida tourist industry, not the threats to lovely destinations.
    In reality, the Florida tourist industry has been thriving.

    “According to the Associated Press, via News Republic, Florida was expected to hit 84 million visitors this year [2011]. The state tourism agency, Visit Florida, showed a five percent increase of visitors to the state, through September, over the previous year. This was mainly due to overseas visitors, especially tourists from Brazil. The Brazilian economy is doing well and more Brazilians can afford to travel abroad, with Florida being a top destination.”

    http://www.travelagentcentral.com/tourism-visitors-bureaus/florida-tourism-increases-2011-32654

  4. prokaryotes says:

    OT

    RT @RANKIS: Tax Loophole For Wealthy Money Managers Lowered Romney’s Taxes By $2.6 Million In Last 2 Years http://bit.ly/AbZMUr

    https://twitter.com/#!/NationalReset/status/161888754494222338

  5. Steve Lounsbury says:

    If Santorum believes in the safety of off shore drilling, will he pledge to resign the Presidency if there is a major oil spill resulting in an environmental disaster?

  6. prokaryotes says:

    South Carolina sez Rick Santorum is too moderate http://rabett.blogspot.com/2012/01/south-carolina-sez-rick-santorum-is-too.html

    More from the republican landscape with the protagonist discussed here.

  7. Chris Winter says:

    Santorum: “What threatens the tourist industry in Florida, as we’re seeing, is a very bad economy — and a very bad economy that became a bad economy why? Because of a huge spike in oil prices in the summer of 2008.”

    High oil prices in 2008 are to blame for the Great Recession? Uh, no.

    PolitiFact, here’s one low and slow right over the plate for you.