America needs oil, which is why Rep. Michele Bachmann said Sunday she would consider allowing oil and natural gas drilling in the Florida Everglades if elected president in 2012.
During a campaign stop in the Sunshine State over the weekend, Bachmann told The Associated Press that she would do what she could to make the U.S. less dependent on foreign oil and more dependent on American resourcefulness.
Whether that is in the Everglades or whether that is in the Eastern Gulf region or whether that is in North Dakota, we need to go where the energy is, she said, before adding that she would not make a decision before consulting with scientists about the environmental impacts of drilling in the extremely sensitive ecosystem.
The concession is an unusual one for Bachmann, who has repeatedly attacked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency while on the campaign trail. During June's GOP debate in New Hampshire, Bachmann said the country needs to pass the mother of all repeal bills to rid the nation of the agency's job killing regulations, even suggesting the EPA be renamed to the job-killing organization of America.
While addressing a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in early August, Bachmann again implied that closing the EPA is one of her main priorities, making it especially difficult to believe she would be concerned about the environmental implications of drilling for oil and natural gas in the Everglades.
I guarantee you the EPA will have doors locked and lights turned off and they will only be about conservation, she said.
Bachmann obviously doesn't know much about the Everglades, since there is a slew of research available that suggests near-shore oil drilling could have catastrophic impacts on its ecosystem. The Everglades Coalition reports that oil spills from potential drilling could be deadly to local wildlife and lead to water quality degradation as well as a release of harmful contaminants - such as drilling fluids and metal cuttings - into natural resources.
The impact could be so severe that in January 2010, The Everglades Coalition, along with 53 other organizations, signed a petition urging the state and federal authorities to oppose legislative attempts to expand oil drilling in Florida.
Moreover, eco-tourism is a huge industry in South Florida, which would surely be affected by drilling - meaning, as Bachmann would surely phrase it, the practice itself could be another job-killer.
While largely a red state, Florida voters may also be more sentimental about their natural resources than Bachmann gives them credit for. A 2010 Mason-Dixon poll found that only 35 percent of state voters supported offshore drilling, significantly less than the 61 percent who said they were for the act in 2008.
Attacking the EPA has been a popular sport for GOP presidential contenders, who use it as an easy target in their perpetual jobs platform by claiming environmental regulations are hampering American businesses. However, the EPA reports that since its creation in the early 1970s, GDP has grown by about 200 percent, while common pollutants have dropped 63 percent. Environmental protection efforts also created about 1.7 million jobs as of 2008 and the industry has yielded approximately $300 billion in revenues between 2000 and 2008.
In the event that a politician did attempt to repeal the EPA, the move would not go down quietly. A June poll from the American Lung Association found that 64 percent of respondents - including Democrats, Republicans and Independents - said that scientists at the EPA, and not politicians in Congress, should set the nation's pollution standards.