Bushes' Green Line in Florida

It was a politically shrewd move, enhancing both the electoral prospects of the president in Florida and those of his brother, who's running for reelection as governor this fall. But it was also sound environmental policy.

The $235 million the Bush administration has now committed to buy up oil- and gas-drilling rights near the Everglades and off the Florida panhandle will help safeguard crystalline white beaches and protect habitat for species like the Florida panther and the manatee.

With most Floridians opposing increased drilling in or near their state, the political plus was obvious. But it's doubtful political calculations alone dictated this "green" move by President Bush. Negotiations to buy out these rights had been under way for years.

But if stopping drilling is the right thing to do in Florida, why not in Alaska, or California, too?

The administration rightly says that every case has to be weighed separately. The proposed drilling in Alaska's Arctic wildlife refuge, recently nixed by the Senate, had strong support within the state and promised a bigger production than the Florida sites. Eventually the nation will need to tap that reserve, but not before drilling can be shown to do the least damage to the site's unusual ecology.

Californians who've long wanted to stop development of oil sites off their shore may have a case for asking, "Why not us, too?" The estimated cost of closing those leases, however, would be more than $1 billion.

Just where does the administration, committed to developing more domestic energy supplies, draw the line? For reasons that go a lot deeper than brotherly politics, the right line was drawn for Florida. Protecting the Everglades is ample justification.

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