WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS4) – Florida’s coastline will remain off limits to oil drilling for at least the next seven years. That’s the decision from the Obama Administration and it is an about face triggered by the BP oil spill.

On Miami Beach Thursday I talked with tourists about their search for tranquility on our beaches and the thirst for oil to power our lives. Carolyn Powers, a Los Angeles resident, summed up her feelings. She said, “The idea of anything coming in here and disturbing this would be very unappealing but I also believe we need oil and gas.”

The Obama Administration early this year had signaled it would allow oil rigs as close as 125 miles off Florida’s west coast and exploration in the Atlantic Ocean off North and Central Florida. Then came the BP oil spill and with that disaster a change of policy direction. Now administration officials say a go slow approach is best, prompting the decision to say no to any drilling off our coasts at least through 2017.

Florida Democratic Party leaders and environmental groups call it great news. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy spokeswoman Andrea Cuccaro said, “It (the prospect of drilling) did not do anything in the near term to increase our energy independence whereas clean energy could. There is an opportunity to develop clean energy, solar and wind sources.”

Miami Republican U.S. Senator-Elect Marco Rubio wants a clean energy mix too, but strongly disagrees with the White House’s decision. Rubio said, “I believe the administration’s new policy is an obstacle to job creation and imperils our national security by making us more dependent on foreign oil from hostile regimes.”

The political tides are constantly changing. The only guarantee is that the debate will intensify over where to look for fresh energy sources and how to handle the risks in doing so.

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