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Galveston -- Exhibit A Against Offshore Drilling?

Florida Governor Charlie Crist recently forgot about his 2006 campaign promise and

changed his mind

about offshore drilling. This week, the President made his

pitch

to eliminate a federal ban on the drilling. (Florida is the only state in the Gulf of Mexico protected by the ban.)

So Floridians might be a little antsy about Big Oil invading their white sands and emerald waters. Needing solid evidence for opposition, it looks like they have found a place to point to: Galveston.

A couple comments from readers of the story, which has made the rounds to several Web sites:

jb: "they say,"everything in Texas is bigger",including the dummies,you stick to your side of the Gulf and we'll stick to ours,by the way someone made the village idiot President,PLEASE TAKE HIM BACK!!!"

cubfanbudman42: "Wow! Is it too late to give Texas back to Mexico?"

And this from a letter to the editor:

"I visited a friend in Houston a few weeks ago and we spent a few hours at Galveston Beach. I did not think it was possible for a beach to be ugly…I was so glad to return to Florida and our lovely environment after my trip to Houston. I feel blessed to live in such a gorgeous place. Turning Florida into the next Texas would break my heart."

Roshelle Gaskins, public relations manager for the Galveston Convention and Visitors Bureau, has a different view. Obviously.

"We understand they want to make a stance, but there's no reason to make that sort of betrayal about Galveston," Gaskins says. "Texas beaches are really different from Florida. We're not a peninsula reaching out to the Caribbean."

Gaskins points to the Mississippi River – along with about 30 others rivers that feed into the Gulf – for the water color in Galveston. She blames the smell on seaweed.

"Nowadays, I don't see [offshore rigs] as a factor," Gaskins says. "In the beginning, we had some issues on the Texas coast, but those days have been long gone, and those oil rigs still remain there. We don't see it hurting our tourism here in Galveston."

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Kenneth Medlock, a fellow in energy studies at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, supports offshore drilling in Florida. Pollution in Galveston, he says, is caused from its proximity to the Houston Ship Channel.

In fact, Medlock says that more drilling would be better for the environment, if it decreased imports and foreign-tanker traffic. Medlock points to a study by the National Academy of Sciences that compared spill rates of oil tankers to offshore rigs. The tankers spilled about 13 times more oil.

"Environmental goals are certainly worthy, but sometimes they can lead you to a less environmentally friendly outcome," Medlock says. "I think in this case they kind of have."

-- Paul Knight

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