The record-breaking price of oil is shifting public opinion toward lifting a moratorium on new offshore drilling, reports the AP. Four companies acquired rights to explore parcels of land off the Florida coast in March, under a 2006 Congressional compromise that opened up 8.3 million acres off the Panhandle in exchange for a buffer along the rest of the state's beaches.
Big finds could ramp up the pressure to lift more environmental protection, the AP notes, as $145-a-barrel oil makes the price of exploration more feasible. Floridians are leaning toward lifting the ban, but there are still plenty of opponents worried about environmental damage. Oil companies are using the "shockingly high price of oil," said Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, "to scare the public into thinking coastal drilling offers a real solution to our dependency on oil."