Texas. California. Alaska. And now, Florida. That’s the latest site of what has become a series of heated debates over offshore drilling. All around the country, lawmakers overseeing diminished state and local coffers are proposing opening up some regions that are now off limits for offshore drilling, and longtime opponents are clinging to outdated arguments.

This kneejerk sort of reaction of turning to oil in the most desperate of economic circumstances is in many ways regrettable. A robust domestic energy industry, after all, has a lot more to offer us all than some emergency funds. But it’s also an opportunity for which many of us have waited a long time and for that reason, we all need to become active participants in these debates and do what we can to educate policy makers and the general public.

Based on what we’ve seen coming out of Florida so far, this is not a battle that will be easily resolved. But there does appear to be a fair amount of genuine interest in hearing what the oil industry has to say. Consider some of the arguments that were made – and covered in the press – during a series of symposiums like this one recently held in Tallahassee:

–The majority of oil released into the ocean has been shown to come from natural seeps from the ocean floor.

–Transporting oil long distances in tankers poses a greater environmental hazard than producing it close to home and transporting it on pipelines.

–Offshore drilling and coastal tourism have a strong track record of coexisting well together, even before the introduction of directional drilling technologies, which minimize the surface disturbance.

As these debates gain momentum around the country, we are struck by how people everywhere have such similar concerns. They want economic stability for the country and a sustained or improved quality of life for themselves.

But as we shift our focus from California to Alaska to Florida, we’re also reminded that while the domestic drilling debate is in many ways a no-brainer, it does take on a different tone in different locales. If we really want to make progress nationwide, we must understand the specific concerns of all different communities, from the tundra to the tropics.

Finally, we cannot forget what is at stake: What is quite likely the world’s largest supply of oil and oil equivalents. As this advocate recently argued, “Leading the world in resource reserves would be something of a prize, if Washington would permit our corporations and entrepreneurs to actually access it.”