It's hard to believe it has been almost one month since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil slick spreading from the Deepwater Horizon disaster continues to threaten fisheries, tourism and the habitat of hundreds of bird species in the Gulf, from Alabama to Louisiana to Florida. And it has many other states rethinking their own plans for oil drilling.
In March, President Obama announced that Virginia (my home state) would become one of the first East Coast states to drill offshore for oil and natural gas. Companies were to start bidding on contracts to conduct exploratory drilling in Virginia's waters 50 miles off the coast late next year or early in 2012.
But even proponents of the "Drill, baby, drill" mantra are rethinking that position in light of the oil spill in the Gulf. Mayor Will Sessoms of Virginia Beach supported drilling and helped the city pass a resolution in favor of it, in part to help the tourism industry by keeping the cost of gas down. He now says he wants to see the drilling timetable altered or even halted. According to Sessoms, the Louisiana accident was a wake-up call.
In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently withdrew his support of a plan to expand oil drilling off the California coast, citing the massive oil spill in the Gulf. The announcement assures that no new drilling will take place off the state's coastline in the foreseeable future.
In Ohio, community organizations are questioning the safety of wells that, according to state law, are allowed within 150 feet of homes and schools.
According to a recent poll conducted by CBS News, 46 percent of Americans now say they support offshore drilling — down 16 points from the 64 percent who backed such drilling back in July 2008, when "Drill, baby, drill" was an oft-chanted Republican campaign slogan. Forty-one percent, meanwhile, say the costs and risks of offshore drilling are too great — up from 28 percent in the summer of 2008.
Still 46 percent is a pretty big number, especially considering the environmental, economic, and health consequences of the disaster in the Gulf. So it seems that the GOP is still chanting "Drill, baby, drill" just as long as that drilling is Not In Their Backyard.