Northwestern’s Floridians react to Obama’s offshore oil and gas drilling plans

Peter Larson

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Students and environmental groups are questioning President Barack Obama’s proposal to expand the development of oil and gas resources on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.

A statement from the Obama administration March 31 outlined the expansion of fossil fuel exploration on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. The proposal opens a vast tract of the Atlantic coast to drilling that had previously been banned, including parts of the Florida panhandle.

Camille Beredjick, from Tampa, Fla., said she is worried offshore drilling might pose a threat to the state’s natural appeal, which makes Florida’s beaches one of the most important factors in the tourism industry it depends on.

“From a Floridian’s perspective, I think it would be devastating if we had to sacrifice the wildlife and the landscape that make Florida what it is,” the Medill freshman said. “I really hope it doesn’t interfere too much.”

Obama and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said the strategy is to strengthen the nation’s energy security. It calls for development in new areas such as the eastern Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, according to a White House press release.

“When I found out about it … I don’t know what the medical term is, but I was near a heart attack,” said Jennie van den Boogaard, newly elected president of Environmental Campus Outreach. “The last thing we need to do is drill for more oil.”

Van den Boogaard, of Satellite Beach, Fla., said instead of spending the money to continue searching for nonrenewable resources, the administration should put it to use for furthering research in cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.

“We need to put that same money toward things that will actually help the planet, instead of putting more carbon into the atmosphere,” the SESP freshman said.

Meg Wagner, a freshman journalism major at the University of Florida, also said the money would be better spent on alternative, clean energy techniques.

“That is a much better use of our time than simply putting a Band-Aid on the problem by finding oil elsewhere,” she said. “We need to invest our energy and our time and opportunities into finding something that’s going to be a little more sustainable.”

Beredjick said the recent announcement is an important political tactic for the president’s higher priority of passing a climate and energy bill.

“He’s trying to negate the partisanship that’s been going on in the climate bill and maybe make some Republicans more open toward the idea of it,” she