Michele Bachmann Would Drill for Oil and Gas in the Everglades
Around the State
Saying she would consider drilling for oil and gas in the Everglades, GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann may have stepped into a political swamp in Florida.
During a weekend campaign swing through the state, the Minnesota congresswoman promoted energy independence as crucial to jump-starting the U.S. economy.
"The United States needs to be less dependent on foreign sources of energy and more dependent upon American resourcefulness. Whether that is in the Everglades, or whether that is in the eastern Gulf region, or whether that's in North Dakota, we need to go where the energy is," she said.
But Bachmann's pro-growth probe struck a sacred cow of Florida politics by referencing the sprawling Sea of Grass, which has been the subject of decades-long restoration efforts.
Though "Save the Everglades" ventures have included underperforming and overpriced projects by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and a controversial land purchase engineered by former Gov. Charlie Crist and U.S. Sugar, environmentalists took umbrage at Bachmann's suggestion.
"NRA card-carrying hunters, fishermen, water-fowlers and other outdoor enthusiasts do not want to see drilling in their Everglades wildlife paradise," said Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation.
"In addition, the Everglades is the source of fresh, clean drinking water for more than 7 million Floridians. Congresswoman Bachmann needs to undersand that oil and drinking water do not mix."
Bachmann, who is vying to remain among the top-tier of GOP presidential candidates, stressed that she wasn't necessarily locked in on the Everglades as a source for petroleum.
"Environmentalists have demanded we lock up our energy resources. I'll take that key out of the door," she said. "Of course it needs to be done responsibly. If we can't responsibly access energy in the Everglades then we shouldn't do it."
Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who served under Crist, said Bachmann was right to keep an open mind.
"We shouldn't be taking anything out of our energy portfolio," he said.
But Kottkamp added that the congresswoman did not appear ready for the "blowback" her comments created.
Bachmann rallied her tea-party and social-conservative base during her swing through Florida.
She called for eliminating the "job-killing" U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
She proposed abolishing the U.S. Department of Education.
On the subject of earthquakes and Hurricane Irene, which thrashed the Northeast and delayed her departure from the state, Bachmann said, "I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of politicians."
John Stemberger, head of the Florida Family Policy Council, said admiringly, "I have never heard any politician share the Gospel with such depth in front of a national media without flinching."
After hearing Bachmann speak to a standing-room-only crowd at Sarasota's Sahib Shrine on Sunday, Sarasota County GOP Chairman Joe Gruters said, "She is a serious contender and can win the whole thing. Anyone who thinks otherwise is making a big mistake."
An energized Bachmann told Sunshine State News on Monday, "The minute we crossed over the Florida line, we were just overwhelmed with the support we have received. The energy in the crowds has been very positive, people are responding to my pro-growth message to turn the economy around and put Americans back to work."
Campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart said Bachmann will be back in Tampa on Sept. 12 for a scheduled CNN debate.
Pressed to participate in the Republican Party of Florida's Presidency 5 straw poll in Orlando on Sept. 24, Bachmann hasn't completely closed the door.
"We entered this race late in the game and focused our efforts on building an organization in Iowa, campaigning in the early states, participating in two major debates, and going back and forth to Washington for key votes," Stewart said.
"We simply don't have the resources to commit to participating in another poll right now. That being said, Florida is critical in the election process and we plan to spend a great deal of time here."
After campaigning in Naples Monday morning, Bachmann traveled across the Everglades to Miami, where she was scheduled to appear at two iconic Cuban-American venues: the Bay of Pigs Museum and Versailles restaurant in Little Havana.
Basking in the glow of enthusiastic and adoring crowds, Bachmann even speculated on possible vice presidential running mates. She named Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. -- who's on virtually everyone's list -- and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a fellow tea party favorite.
Meantime, back on the Everglades, Bachmann said she would rely on experts to determine whether drilling can be done there without harming the environment.
"No one wants to hurt or contaminate the earth. ... We don't want to harm our water, our ecosystems or the air. That is a minimum bar," she was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
"From there, though, that doesn't mean that the two have to be mutually exclusive. We can protect the environment and do so responsibly, but we can also protect the environment and not kill jobs in America and not deny ourselves access to the energy resources that America's been so blessed with."
In 2002, the federal government, at the urging of President George W. Bush, bought back oil and gas drilling rights in the Everglades for $120 million.
Contact Kenric Ward at email@example.com or (772) 801-5341.