CLEARWATER – Pinellas County tourism officials on Wednesday soundly renounced the politically charged “Drill, Baby, Drill” strategy that Republicans and some Democrats advocate to increase the nation’s fuel supplies.
Instead, the county’s Tourist Development Council, including elected officials, hoteliers and attraction executives, agreed to draft a letter to elected officials that states their opposition to offshore drilling and their support for alternative energy sources.
“That’s the strongest way we can go,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Bob Stewart, who is chairman of the tourism council. Stewart and others called the response to offshore drilling proposals by Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm, “wishy-washy” at best.
The council’s letter will reiterate what Stewart said in a May letter to the state’s U.S Senate delegation on behalf of the county commission.
“Our critically important tourism industry, which welcomes some 13 million visitors and generated over $6 billion per year, and commercial fishing, would be at severe risk by allowing drilling off the coast,” it said.
Clearwater council member Carlen Petersen was particularly adamant in her concern over a spate of recent U.S. Senate and House proposals that could eliminate or weaken restrictions on drilling, which is restricted to beyond about 250 miles off Florida’s west coast and 125 miles off the Panhandle.
“There is a lot of misinformation, a lot of confusion out there, Petersen said. “We need to know why existing offshore leases are not being used and how much oil more drilling would bring us.”
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Monday told Congress oil companies lease 32 million acres offshore they have not drilled and that a White House report said drilling would not change the price of gasoline until 2030.