Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama responded to John McCain’s call to end the moratorium on off-shore drilling in a press appearance in Chicago on Friday and made his own appeal to the voters of Florida:

When I am President, I will keep the moratorium in place and prevent oil companies from drilling off Florida’s coasts. That’s how we can protect our coasts and still make the investments that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring down gas prices for good.

His prepared remarks on drilling and gas prices are below the fold:

There has been a lot of discussion over the last week about offshore drilling, so I’d just like to say a few words about that before I open this up for questions.

I understand how badly folks are struggling to pay gas prices that have reached well over $4 in many places. I still remember the man I met in Pennsylvania who just lost his job but can’t even afford to drive around and look for a new one. Along with the skyrocketing cost of health care and college and even food, it is a crushing burden on working families that we have to relieve. That’s why I’ve proposed taxing the record, multibillion-dollar profits of oil companies and using the money to pay for a $1,000 middle-class tax cut that would go to 95% of all families. It’s also why I’ve proposed a second fiscal stimulus package that would mail another round of rebate checks to the American people.

These steps would ease some of the short-term pain of these gas prices. But what wouldn’t do a thing to lower gas prices is John McCain’s new proposal to open up Florida’s coastline to offshore drilling.

In what is becoming a bit of a regular occurrence in this campaign, Senator McCain once had a different position on offshore drilling. And it’s clear why he did – it would have long-term consequences for our coastlines but no short-term benefits since it would take ten years to get any oil.

Well, the politics may have changed, but the accuracy of his original position hasn’t. Offshore drilling would not lower gas prices today. It would not lower gas prices this summer. It would not lower gas prices this year. In fact, President Bush’s own Energy Department says that we won’t see a drop of oil from this proposal until 2017. It will take a generation to reach full production. And even then, the effect on gas prices will be minimal at best.

Believe me – if I thought that there was any evidence at all that drilling could save people money who are struggling to fill up their tanks by this summer or this year or even the next few years, I would consider it. But it won’t. And John McCain knows that.

The fact is, Senator McCain’s decision to team up with George Bush on offshore drilling violates the bipartisan consensus we’ve had in place for decades that has protected Florida’s pristine coastline from drilling.

Just like Senator McCain’s gas tax gimmick, this is a proposal that will only worsen our addiction to oil and put off needed investments in clean, renewable energy. And it’s not the kind of change the American people are looking for. They’re looking for leadership that moves this country forward and actually offers real solutions to the serious challenges we face. That’s why I have unveiled an aggressive and comprehensive energy policy that raises our fuel standards and invests $150 billion over the next ten years in clean, affordable, renewable sources of energy – a policy that promotes realistic energy conservation. And when I am President, I will keep the moratorium in place and prevent oil companies from drilling off Florida’s coasts. That’s how we can protect our coasts and still make the investments that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring down gas prices for good. And that’s what I intend to do as President.