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Major Obama shift on offshore drilling; some might be O.K.

August 1, 2008 | 10:00 pm

Another sudden switch and another major slide toward the center by Democratic Sen. Barack Obama.

He told a Florida newspaper today he is NOT against ALL offshore drilling for new oil resources. Switching from his previous blanket oppostion to expanded offshore drilling, Obama tells the Palm Beach Post he could get behind a compromise with Republicans and oil companies to avoid a gridlock over energy policy.An offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico off New Orlean

"The Republicans and the oil companies have been really beating the drums on drilling," Obama said in the Post interview. "And so we don't want gridlock. We want to get something done."

The freshman Illinois senator and presidential nominee-to-be added: "If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage — I don't want to be so rigid that we can't get something done."

The public struggle between the two parties and their candidates has been going on for weeks. And recent polls have indicated a shift by voters toward approval of careful offshore drilling as a way to increase petroleum supplies and reduce stiff gas prices.

Republican nominee-to-be John McCain was asked for a response to Obama's latest shift. The Arizona senator said: "We need oil drilling and we need it now offshore. He has consistently opposed it. He has opposed nuclear power. He has opposed reprocessing. He has opposed storage."

As political momentum appears to build for some new offshore drilling ast least along the Eastern coast, including Florida, President Bush recently rescinded one of two bans on the operations. Congress imposed one ban in 1981 and another was signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and renewed in 1998 by President Clinton.

The current President Bush lifted the executive ban last month. But Congress, which left Washington today for yet another recess, the one a full five weeks, has not moved to change its prohibition.

Imagine that, progress through public debate.

--Andrew Malcolm

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