Monday, September 08, 2008

Drill, Drill, Drill

The Hill reports this afternoon that congressional Republicans are so insistent on granting oil drilling rights to the near-shore of Pensacola Beach, the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and other coastal areas that they are threatening to block the reauthorization bill for the Department of Defense if they don't get their way.

Tarballs on Pensacola Beach. Can this possibly be the "right" direction for America voters want to endorse? Can anyone believe it will "cure" what ails the "quality of life" worries in Pensacola?

Enid Sisskin had a Viewpoint article in the PNJ about a week ago. As one of the few people in Northwest Florida who has studied the issue in all of its nasty details for more than a decade, she knows what she's talking about:
The cruelest part of the current "drill here, drill now" campaign is its dishonesty. Those pushing to open up every last inch of our coasts, including the Gulf Coast, to offshore drilling are giving false hope to people suffering because of high gas prices.

We are told that if we are only willing to risk our clean water, fisheries and economy — gas prices will fall. Unfortunately, this is a politically motivated hoax; even the Department of Energy admits that drilling in currently closed areas will have little, if any, effect on gas prices now or into the future.

In fact, DOE estimates that 80 percent of acreage with recoverable petroleum is already available for leasing, and oil companies are only drilling on 25 percent of the leases they already own.

In fact, the past eight years proved that opening more acreage to drilling does not reduce gas prices — 26 million acres were opened and the number of drilling permits issued annually doubled. In the past two years alone, 8 million acres were opened but did nothing to decrease gas prices.

However, even if the oil companies were allowed to drill in the closed areas, areas so special that up until now both Republican and Democratic administrations have continued to protect them, anything found would end up on the world market and, in comparison to current world oil use, would do little or nothing to decrease prices.

This would be little more than a gift to oil companies whose profits surpassed $44 billion in the past three months.

Why not drill? What have we got to lose?

Drilling, even with the newest technologies is still a dirty, risky business. Oil companies are allowed to legally dump tons of pollutants into the water in the form of drilling "muds," cuttings and produced waters. The Environmental Protection Agency has no idea what long-term effects these pollutants will have.

Tourism, one of this area's economic engines, depends on the perception of an area — and this area is perceived as clean, from our sugar-white beaches to our emerald-green water.

Then there are spills. There have been 148 spills of greater than 50 barrels (2,100 gallons) in the past 10 years, 13 of them greater than 1,000 barrels.

Based on historical spill events, residual water quality effects could last as long as two years after the spill. And if a spill were to reach our beaches, oil would persist in beach sands and could be released during storms and high tides. During hot, sunny days, tar balls buried near the surface could liquefy and seep into the sand surface.

Another fable, one that has been repeated almost as often as that of drilling off our shores will lower gas prices, is the one about hurricanes neither damaging offshore rigs nor spilling petroleum.

According to the Coast Guard and the federal Minerals Management Service, hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged or destroyed 113 rigs and structures (one of which washed up on Dauphin Island) and 146 hurricane-related oil/condensate/chemical spills were reported, six of at least 1,000 barrels. There are still some seeps from damaged rigs, which the MMS estimates will continue until 2010.

If the problem is simply domestic supply, and increasing U.S. supply is the solution, then why is the United States sending record amounts of petroleum to more than 100 other countries? According to the DOE, every day we export 1.6 million barrels of petroleum.

Surely, before we risk drilling off our beaches, we should demand that at the very least that oil produced here, stays here.

For now, there are faster, cheaper, better solutions to high energy costs. The DOE, EPA and NASCAR all agree that keeping your car in good repair with your tires properly inflated will save you the equivalent of 12 cents per gallon — right now.

With car-pooling, synchronized traffic lights, higher CAFÉ standards and better public transportation we would save even more.

Instead of multibillion-dollar subsidies to the oil companies, give some of that money to citizens to pay for increased energy efficiency. And we need to invest in renewable energy sources, as even oilman T. Boone Pickens admits.

Other countries, including those sitting on most of the world's oil, are investing in solar and wind energy as well as some truly remarkable new technologies.

As we at Gulf Coast Environmental Defense been saying for years, "Rigs aren't worth the Risk." And as far as gasoline prices go, there's no reason to think otherwise now. To get information and take action, go to

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please post this cartoon regarding "fiscal conservatives"

The Repus are NOT "fiscal conservatives"; this myth must end.