ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) – Barack Obama said Friday that he would be willing to compromise on his position against offshore oil drilling if it were part of a more overarching strategy to lower energy costs.
“My interest is in making sure we've got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices," Obama told The Palm Beach Post early into a two-day swing through Florida.
"If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage – I don't want to be so rigid that we can't get something done," Obama said.
The senator from Illinois has railed against offshore drilling since John McCain in June proposed striking down the federal moratorium banning offshore oil and gas drilling to help alleviate high gas prices.
“When I’m president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium here in Florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off Florida’s coasts,” Obama told reporters in Jacksonville in late June. “That’s how we can protect our coastline and still make the investments that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring down gas prices for good.”
Even as recently as Thursday, Obama refused to cede any ground, calling McCain’s proposal “a strategy designed to get politicians through an election.”
“It's not going to provide short-term relief or medium-term relief or in fact long-term relief. It won't drop prices in this administration or in the next administration or in the administration after that,” Obama said while campaigning in Iowa.
But Friday Obama admitted that something is better than nothing and praised a bipartisan energy plan from the Senate that combines alternative energy innovation, financial, nuclear energy and drilling proposals. He noted he is still skeptical about drilling’s potential to lower gas prices or reduce dependence on foreign oil.
“The Republicans and the oil companies have been really beating the drums on drilling," Obama said in the interview with the Florida paper, "and so we don't want gridlock. We want to get something done.”
The McCain camp was quick to applaud Obama’s softening on the issue.
“It’s clear that members of both parties are following John McCain's leadership toward an ‘all of the above’ approach on energy that includes nuclear, alternative energy, and offshore drilling,” said a McCain spokesman. “We hope Barack Obama will realize that his ongoing opposition to John McCain’s realistic energy solutions and additional offshore drilling is wrong.”