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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

'Drill here, drill now' protest targets Nelson



Members of the South Pinellas 9.12 Patriots showed up outside Sen. Bill Nelson's Tampa office this morning and demanded to talk to him about oil drilling, health care and other matters. But Nelson, who was holding an antidrilling news conference, did not come out.

"Drill here, drill now!" came the cry from a bullhorn. An organizer said about 50 people showed up to rally against the "cap and trade" proposal and a government-run health care plan. The group is aligned with Glenn Beck's 9-12 Project.

"The August recess is so you can get back in touch with your constituents, so here we are," the organizer, who only provided his first name as Lee, told the Buzz. "It’s time he knew we the people are fed up."

Nelson is in Tampa to release a new Sierra Club report estimating the impact coastal drilling would have on the state economy. The report states that coastal communities contributed about $550 billion to the Florida economy. He is sounding the alarm about new proposals in the Senate that would undo a 2006 law that keeps oil rigs 230 miles off Tampa Bay and 125 miles off the Florida Panhandle.

Ron Sachs Communications later sent out a news release critical of the Sierra Club report.

“There’s no evidence anywhere that offshore drilling has hurt tourism in any area where it has been allowed.  High energy costs and high unemployment kill tourism more than anything. Without affordable gas, we can’t get tourists to Florida,” Associated Industries of Florida president Barney Bishop said in the release. “Florida’s unemployment rate is 10.7 percent and tourism is already down nearly 9.5 percent. Instead of helping our recovery, the knee-jerk opponents of energy exploration want to throw stones at a clean job-creating industry that could put billions of dollars into working Floridians’ pockets.” 

The release cites a study by economist Hank Fishkind that projects offshore drilling and production could add from $7 billion to $41 billion a year to Florida’s economy, and create from 40,000 jobs to more than 230,000 new Florida jobs.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 3:59pm]


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