What a difference a decade makes. Opposition to offshore oil drilling is now a bipartisan issue in Florida.
No longer are Florida Republicans chanting "Drill, Baby, Drill!" like they did during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Instead, Florida Republicans and Democrats alike are objecting to President Trump's reckless push to expand offshore drilling and change safety regulations imposed after the BP oil spill.
What a welcome change of heart for a state whose tourism depends on pristine beaches.
Trump's push to expand drilling followed the eighth anniversary of the nation's worst-ever oil spill — Deepwater Horizon — which spewed more than 3 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, devastating marine and wildlife habitat, as well as fishing and tourism businesses.
Even in the midst of the 87-day effort to stop the spill, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he supported more offshore rigs to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. "I have not heard anyone say you cannot safely drill for oil," he said at the time, "because there are thousands of rigs drilling as we speak."
In December 2010, both Rubio and then Gov.-elect Rick Scott opposed President Obama's decision to halt plans for more drilling in the eastern Gulf and along the southern Atlantic seaboard. Scott said pushing for energy independence should include safe drilling operations "rather than saying point-blank we're not going to do it."
But oh how Florida's political currents have changed. For his shift on offshore drilling, the governor recently earned a "full flop" from the fact-checking site, politifact.com.
Today, Rubio and Scott both oppose Trump's proposed plans for drilling in the eastern Gulf. Florida is "firmly against these proposed changes," Scott said recently. "I remain concerned about the potential impact these changes could have on Florida's environment."
More significantly, the state Constitution Revision Commission — a group largely appointed by Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature — has placed a proposed amendment on the November ballot that would ban oil drilling near the coast.
So what's changed? Public opinion polls, lower gas prices and our nation's growing energy independence, which got its kick-start under President Obama.
Back in 2008, when gas prices were rising, about 60 percent of Floridians supported offshore drilling. But after the BP oil spill two years later, nearly 60 percent opposed it.
Surprisingly, a recent poll by Clearview Research shows just 54 percent of Florida voters support the proposed amendment to ban near-shore drilling. The amendment will need 60 percent voter approval for passage.
Another reason for the changed political calculus is America's growing energy independence. Our ability to better tap natural gas resources — through fracking and horizontal drilling — has made us less dependent on the Middle East for energy supplies.
Meanwhile, the shale fields in Texas and North Dakota have driven oil production to record levels, producing major exports for the first time in decades. With U.S. oil production at its highest level in 50 years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) expects the U.S to surpass Saudi Arabia and rival Russia this year, the Associated Press reports.
Plus, the oil industry showed only tepid interest during a recent auction of oil-drilling tracts in the Gulf, bidding on just 1 percent of the 77 million acres made available, the New York Times reported.
So why is the president pushing for more offshore oil rigs if public support is against it, the industry isn't demanding it and inland production is booming? Is more government revenue really worth the cost?
It's worth noting that New Zealand recently stopped issuing permits for offshore oil and gas exploration in an effort to combat climate change. "We are committed to the goal of becoming a net zero-emissions economy by 2050," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, according to the New York Times.
At the same time, technological advancements are making it more practical and affordable to harness energy from solar and wind alternatives. In fact, solar energy was the world's fastest growing power source in 2016, accounting for about two-thirds of the new capacity, according to an IEA report. China got much of the credit, thanks to increased government funding and decreased equipment costs, the Associated Press reports.
Boosting investments in renewable energy to avoid oil spills and reduce pollution is also the route this country should take. Less pollution from burning fossil fuels would slow the escalating effects of climate change, including sea level rise, which will change the face of South Florida.
The oil industry and other supporters of the president's proposed regulatory changes say Florida's concerns are overblown — that they are not abandoning safeguards against pollution.
But how can we trust an administration that is systematically wiping out the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to hold the oil industry accountable?
And how can we trust Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who in January said Florida would be exempt from the effort to expand offshore drilling, but later backtracked?
The answer is we can't.
That's why we need Florida's elected leaders to work in harmony against efforts to expand oil drilling or weaken the rules designed to prevent another catastrophe.