CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama responded Saturday to criticism that he shifted his position opposing offshore oil drilling.
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.
But on Saturday morning, Obama said this "wasn't really a new position."
"I made a general point about the fact that we need to provide the American people some relief and that there has been constructive conversations between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate on this issue so I applaud them on that but I am not ready to sign off on any particular approach or proposal because I think these are very important issues," he said during a press conference in Cape
Obama added: "What I will not do, and this has always been my position is to support a plan that suggests this drilling is the answer to our energy problems. If we've got a plan on the table that
I think meets the goals that America has to set and there are some things in there that I don't like then obviously that's something that you know I would consider because that's the nature of how we
govern in a democracy."
The senator from Illinois has railed against offshore drilling since Sen. John McCain in June proposed striking down the federal moratorium banning offshore oil and gas drilling to help alleviate high gas
"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 what they said was 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."
McCain's views on offshore drilling appear to match those of many Americans, according to another CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll out Thursday.
Just more than half of those polled said the ban on additional offshore drilling is a major cause of high fuel prices. The same number cite the Bush administration and the war in Iraq as causes.
The poll indicates that about two-thirds of Americans think U.S. oil companies and foreign countries that produce oil are major causes of higher gas prices.
One group gets relatively little blame. Thirty-one percent of those polled said the Democrats in Congress are a major cause of gas prices.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.