378913 02: Pennzenergy Company Oil Exploration Drilling Rig, Ship Shoal 150, In The Gulf Of Mexico. (Photo By Getty Images)
Spring's first return to New Jersey brought beachgoers to the Shore on Good Friday, and environmentalists to Belmar to vow a fight against a President they thought was one of their own.
"We got rid of the 'Fossil Fools' in the White House with George Bush and Dick Cheney and we expected the Obama Administration to be leading us to a greener future," said the Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel about the President's proposal this week to allow the first oil drilling off America's Atlantic coast.
The President's proposal for drilling off the Mid-Atlantic States includes tracts that by some estimates are as close as ten miles to Cape May, New Jersey's southernmost point.
But environmentalists may be swimming against a tide of public opinion. Polls consistently show majority support for offshore drilling.
Hamilton's Shannon Moscarello, 40 is one such advocate. Despite enjoying a day on the beach, she said "I think if it lowered our gas prices and bettered the economy it's worth it."
"We're always fighting an uphill battle because there was this perception that somehow if you drilled off the coast you'd solve the energy crises. It's not true," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) in reaction.
Possible reserves in the Atlantic have been estimated in days or weeks worth of U.S. oil supplies but the pressure to 'Drill, Baby, Drill' has been intense ever since gas prices skyrocketed in the Spring of 2008.
Still, New Jersey's leading politicians have closed ranks against the proposal.
Democrat Senator Frank Lautenberg called it a "Kill, Baby, Kill policy: it threatens to kill jobs, kill marine life and kill coastal economies that generate billions of dollars."
And fellow Democrat Senator Robert Menendez added "We cannot drill our way out of this problem. Instead of expanding coastline drilling, we should be focused on developing a 21st century green economy."
Even Governor Chris Christie, a republican, said he is opposed. "I would have to be really convinced of both the economic viability and environmental safety of oil and gas exploration off our coast. At this point, I'm not convinced of either," said the Governor in a written statement.
For years though, the oil industry has argued that it has cleaned up its act, and that there are sufficient safeguards to prevent the kind of spills it once was infamous for.
Environmentalists, however, say they feel betrayed by a President who has advocated a cleaner, greener environment.
"I'm stunned and outraged that President Obama would just so dramatically go against everything we know to be the solution to the energy crisis in America.," said Cindy Zipf of Clean Ocean Action.
She called it a "deal with the Devil," and added "He's pandering to the 'Drill, Baby, Drill crowd that was sold a bill of goods by Big Industry, and what he's giving them is the Atlantic Ocean and he's putting all of us at risk."