Commentary: Don't change oil drilling buffer zone

Drill, baby, drill may work as a political bumper sticker but it's not the answer to the nation's energy independence. Drilling could prove to be a Florida disaster — if offshore oil and gas rigs are allowed to move so close to the eastern Gulf of Mexico that beachgoers in the Panhandle could see them.

All it takes is one spill from a tanker to wreck a coastline for years.

Unfortunately, a Senate panel last week approved a dramatic reduction in the state's oil-drilling buffer zone — now at 125 miles away — to only 10 miles off the Panhandle. In the Tampa area, drilling would be allowed 45 miles from Gulf communities instead of the current 235 miles.

Sen. Bill Nelson is right to threaten a filibuster if this dangerous scheme by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., reaches the Senate floor. It shatters a compromise worked out in Congress just three years ago. That deal cleared the way for drilling in eight million acres of the east-central Gulf so long as those other buffers were in place — at least until 2022.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.