Public divided over halt on deepwater drilling

A new Gallup poll shows Americans are split over whether President Obama should lift the ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf before its scheduled end in November.

Forty-seven percent favor ending the moratorium now, while 46 percent say the ban should remain in place.

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The findings come on the heels of a field hearing on Tuesday by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairwoman of the Small Business Committee, who blasted the president for ending nearly all drilling activity in the Gulf.

"The decision to stop virtually all new energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico was uninformed and in my view borders on reckless," she said in opening remarks at the hearing, which focused on the moratorium's effect on the local economy.

"Today, thousands of Gulf Coast businesses are fighting their way out of this government-imposed economic disaster that only threatens jobs and businesses," she said.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) criticized the administration for failing to provide a witness at Landrieu's hearing.

"This is the second time I've asked the Obama administration to send a representative to provide a rationale for the moratorium and to hear firsthand how it's hurting Louisiana families and businesses," Vitter said in prepared remarks. "It's sad, but it's revealing of how the administration has approached this moratorium all along. They want to decide what they think is best for us, but it's clear [from] their response to this committee that they don't care how many jobs they kill in Louisiana."

Landrieu also hosted a hearing on the moratorium last month, where Louisiana State University Professor Joseph Mason pointed out that more than 8,000 jobs, nearly $500 million in wages and over $2.1 billion in economic activity would be lost in the Gulf region as a result of Obama's decision.

The six-month moratorium was issued in May after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform leased by oil giant BP caused massive amounts of oil to spill into the Gulf. The temporary halt was to allow safety measures to be put in place and the "root causes" of the accident explored.

While public sentiment continues to be negative toward BP, 49 percent of respondents to the Gallup poll say the company should be allowed to continue drilling in the Gulf, compared to 46 percent who oppose the idea.