Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has abruptly "changed the appetite" for oil drilling in the waters that surround his state.
Crist told The Hill this week that he has toured the oil spill "eight or nine times," and signed several state-of-emergency declarations in response to the spill. He toured the spill again with President Barack Obama on Friday, and said the close-up views have convinced him not to support any oil drilling in the Gulf.
“For anybody, regardless of what your party is, if this doesn’t give you pause, nothing would,” he said. “I think it’s really changed the appetite, if you will, as it relates to oil drilling certainly in the Gulf of Mexico. The concern after going out to Louisiana the other day and seeing the oil on the shore, I mean, it's just devastating to see. I know that energy independence is incredibly important to all of us, but I think we have to evaluate how we do it, and try to have a greater focus on renewable [energy] and greener types of technology — you know, solar, wind, nuclear, natural gas — the kinds of things that would be less impactful as it relates to, you know, a potentially devastating effect on our environment."
Crist said Florida could be hit particularly hard since its largest industry — tourism — relies overwhelmingly on the state’s beaches.
"Our economy is inextricably linked to our environment. Tourism alone is such a huge part of Florida's economy," he said. "If our beaches get messed up, the negative impact of that would be catastrophic. In order to be able to support offshore oil drilling, it's got to be far enough, clean enough and safe enough. And in this recent example, it's none of the three. It's just not good enough, period. Not enough precaution, not enough safeguards. And when you're drilling that deep, it's obviously too risky a venture."
Asked if the Republican party deserves any blame for its traditional promotion of oil drilling, Crist said the spill goes beyond politics.
"The concern is not about trying to cast blame, but trying to fix the problem," he said. "There's way too much of the blame game going on. What we need to do is realize we've got a huge problem on our hands. We need to marshall all of our energy and resources toward trying to protect the coast and find the kind of technology that would prevent this from happening in the future, and learn from it as quickly as we can. There will be plenty of time for blame later on, but in the near term, while that thing is spewing out there in the Gulf of Mexico, it's got to be 'all hands on deck' trying to find solutions and working together."
Crist was in Pensacola on Wednesday, touring spill cleanup efforts again.