Published: Apr 30, 2010 10:22 AM EDT

     PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - In the conservative Florida
Pandhandle, where Sarah Palin's battle cry "Drill, Baby, Drill"
is still visible on car bumpers, some are reconsidering their
support of offshore drilling as a growing spill in the Gulf of
Mexico drifts closer to shore.
      Charter captain Jim McMahon, who spent Thursday catching cobia
and King Mackerel, said the spill changed his mind.
      "I am pessimistic about this," he said. "It could be
devastating to the fishing and tourism industry. People aren't
going to come to a beach if they have to step through tar balls."
      McMahon isn't alone. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs
said the cause of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, still
not determined, could affect what areas the federal government
would open for future drilling. And Republican Gov. Charlie Crist,
who surveyed the massive oil slick this week and called it
"frightening," backed off his support for offshore oil
extraction.
      "It's the last thing in the world I would want to see happen in
our beautiful state," said Crist, adding that there is no question
now that lawmakers should give up on the idea this year and in
coming years. "Until you actually see it, I don't know how you can
comprehend and appreciate the shear magnitude of that thing."
      Environmentalists were already mobilizing around the issue.
      "This event is a game changer, and the consequences, I believe,
will be long-lasting ecologically and politically - and will be
irreversible," said Richard Charter, energy consultant to
Defenders of Wildlife.
      The full fallout of the spill, however, remains to be seen.
      Gibbs and other officials said Obama still remains committed to
plans to expand offshore drilling to areas that now are off limits,
including the Atlantic Ocean from Delaware to central Florida; the
northern waters of Alaska; and the oil-rich eastern Gulf of Mexico,
125 miles from Florida beaches.
      On the still pristine coast of Pensacola Beach, bikini-clad
Kiley Boster looked out at orange buoys and a boom designed to
collect oil that approached an oyster bed and bird sanctuary near
the shore.
      "I would rather we drill here than spend another 10 years
fighting at war and being dependent on oil from other places," she
said.
      Michael Suarez, a fluids engineer who worked 30 years on
offshore rigs, including the Deepwater Horizon, spends much of his
free time enjoying the coast but said realistically the country
needs to keep running.
      "It would be very sad if oil came up here, and I do see the
possibility of that, but we still have to drill because we have to
have oil and gas," Suarez said, as he watched his grandchildren
playing on the sand.
      In California, where a spill four decades ago gave birth to the
modern environmental movement, conservationists say fragile plans
to expand drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara may have just
suffered a fatal blow.
      State officials are expected this year to consider a project
that calls for new drilling along a stretch of coastline nicknamed
the American Riviera. Plains Exploration & Production, also known
as PXP, wants to slant drill up to 30 new shafts from an existing
platform, passing from federal waters into state waters.
      Currently, 27 platforms operate off the Central and Southern
California coasts. They produce an estimated 13.3 million barrels
of oil in 2009, a fraction of the overall national production.
      Opposition to more drilling has been growing. If approved,
critics say, the project could open up the entire coastline to
drilling. Supporters say it is simply an expansion of current
drilling and has a 15 year limit.
      Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, organized a hearing
Friday in response to the Gulf spill.
      "I think this is a horribly graphic reminder of why California
should never embrace offshore oil drilling, especially a proposal
that is three miles from the coast compared from the 40 miles where
the Louisiana platform was located," he said.
      Congressman John Garamendi, a Democrat from Walnut Creek who as
lieutenant governor helped defeat the proposal last year, said the
Gulf spill "marks a turning point in our national discussion on
new offshore oil drilling. Those calling for Drill, Baby, Drill,
need to start including the corollary, Spill, Baby, Spill."