Sen. John McCain called yesterday for an end to the federal ban on offshore oil drilling, offering an aggressive response to high gasoline prices and immediately drawing the ire of environmental groups that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has courted for months.
The move is aimed at easing voter anger over rising energy prices by freeing states to open vast stretches of the country’s coastline to oil exploration. In a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, nearly 80 percent said soaring prices at the pump are causing them financial hardship, the highest in surveys this decade.
“We must embark on a national mission to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil,” McCain told reporters yesterday. In a speech today, he plans to add that “we have untapped oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. . . . It is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions.”
McCain’s announcement is a reversal of the position he took in his 2000 presidential campaign and a break with environmental activists, even as he attempts to win the support of independents and moderate Democrats. Since becoming the presumptive GOP nominee in March, McCain has presented himself as a friend of the environment by touting his plans to combat global warming and his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in the Everglades.