New Surveys of Eastern Gulf of Mexico Overrides U.S. Moratorium

Sweeping energy legislation allowing the first formal seismic surveys in the eastern Gulf of Mexico was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate.

Florida's two senators cast two of the 12 votes against the bill that now allows taking an inventory of energy reserves in the Gulf. The assessment of underwater reserves is a possible precursor to oil and gas exploration and drilling, which has long been opposed by Florida legislators due to the possible harm to tourism, property values, and sea life.

Supporters of the bill said that improving estimates of oil and gas reserves is critical to national security at a time when prices are rising and U.S. oil imports have reached 58 percent of the country's energy needs.

The inventory provision is a small part of the legislation, which will have little effect on the concerns of consumers in a time of $60 per barrel oil and gasoline that averages more than $2.20 per gallon according to Florida Senator Mel Martinez.