The Beacon: Andy Sharpless's blog

Christie’s Green Auction Approaches

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.

I wanted to give you advance notice of Christie’s Green Auction: A Bid to Save the Earth on March 29th at New York’s Rockefeller Center. This special event premiered last year, raising an unprecedented $2.4 million for Oceana, Conservation International, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Central Park Conservancy.

I applaud Christie’s for its vision and initiative; every item up for bid is donated by generous supporters, and Christie’s is waiving all customary auction fees so that all proceeds benefit the groups.  

A Bid to Save The Earth will include the live auction at Christie’s on March 29th as well as an online silent auction at Charity Buzz that started yesterday.

The auction features coveted celebrity experiences, upscale eco-vacations and other once-in-a-lifetime experiences. You can bid to win a day shadowing President Bill Clinton; a three-day getaway on the luxury super yacht Lady Sheridan during the Cannes Film Festival offered by the owners and Burgess Yachts; and a ten-night trip featuring the exceptional wildlife of Tanzania and the stunning beaches of Mozambique offered by Nomad Tanzania, Vamizi Island and Journeys by Design.  


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More Dolphin Deaths in the Gulf

Dolphins leaping in the Gulf of Mexico. © Oceana/Carlos Suarez

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana. You can follow him on Twitter @Oceana_Andy.

Nearly a year has passed since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and began a three-month-long oil spill. In the later months of last year, after the gushing oil well had finally been capped, some people – politicians and TV talking heads, really – tried to convince Americans that the Gulf had recovered.

It’s true that we still don’t know the extent of the damage wrought by last summer’s oil disaster. The subsurface gusher created a whole new scientific challenge when it came to understanding exactly what was going on. And we’ve said that it would be years before we understand the true cost of the disaster.

Just recently we got a sign that not is all well in the Gulf. Since January, more than 80 bottlenose dolphins have turned up dead – and half of those are newborn or stillborn calves. The government is calling it “an unusual mortality event.”


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What the Oil Spill Commission Missed

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.

Last week, the federal government released a report from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. In some ways, the Commission got it exactly right. After extensive study, the Commission concluded that:

•    The Gulf of Mexico oil disaster was not an isolated incident, and
•    It was the result of systemic failure in the oil industry and its government regulators.

But where the Commission failed was in its recommendations for the future of the oil industry in America. While acknowledging that offshore drilling can never be safe, the Commission declined to recommend removing the cap on liability for drilling disasters like the Deepwater Horizon. Explaining this decision on national television, Chairman Reilly said that some Commission members worried that removing liability limits for disasters would cause the international oil companies to transfer operations to countries that limited their risks from failures like the one this summer in the Gulf.


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The Year Ahead for Oceana

A new year has brought us a new U.S. Congress. While there has been a changeover in power on the political stage, I am hopeful that the new Congress will continue a great tradition of truly bipartisan support for ocean conservation.

In recent years, we’ve seen incredible progress from both ends of the political spectrum. President Bush established one of the world’s largest marine reserves in the Pacific as he was leaving office, and President Obama recently ended offshore drilling for much of the American coastline. Just last month, the outgoing Congress unanimously passed a ban on shark finning in U.S. waters.


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Victory In Chile Against Coal-Fired Power Plant

We've been working in Chile to protect its incredible coastline from a proposed coal-fired power plant that would threaten Punta de Choros, home to amazing wildlife including endangered blue whales and Humboldt penguins. In recent days, grassroots opposition to the power plant grew after the power plant received its environmental permit, with peaceful demonstrations that were ultimately dispersed with tear gas and water cannons as well as a massive outpouring of criticism from Chileans online.

So it is with great satisfaction that I report that Chilean President Sebastian Piñera has announced he has persuaded Suez Energy not to build its power plant near Punta de Choros. In addition, he asked his cabinet to review all the industrial projects that produce environmental damage being considered in the country to see whether they could affect protected areas.

This is an incredible victory for Chileans, 94 percent of whom opposed the power plant in a recent poll. Against the odds, we changed a formal government decision, and the amazing marine ecosystem of Punta de Choros will remain protected.

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.


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New Video from Oceana Chile

Our colleagues down in Chile have just released a fantastic new video featuring Chilean actress Leonor Varela, who recently visited the pristine region of Punta de Choros in Northern Chile to promote Oceana's Energy Campaign.

Our team in Chile has been working to prevent several proposed coal-fired power plants from being built near pristine marine reserves in Punta de Choros.

During her visit, Varela asked Chilean President Sebastián Piñera to keep his campaign promise to oppose all thermoelectric power plants that negatively affect communities, the environment and quality of life.

Check it out:

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.


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Oceana Prepares On-The-Water Gulf Expedition

The Oceana Latitude.

A hundred days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, it appears that BP has finally succeeded in controlling the blowout that spewed millions of gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet to paraphrase Winston Churchill, this is just the end of the beginning. The creatures that live in, and the people that depend on the Gulf of Mexico will be affected by the oil spill for years, and we are just starting to comprehend the scope of this tragedy.

That’s why I am pleased to announce that Oceana is launching an ambitious, eight-week scientific expedition in the Gulf of Mexico. We will assess the effects of the oil spill on the marine environment, and we will trumpet the message that ocean oil drilling is too dangerous to be allowed to wreck any more of our oceans and our beaches.

This expedition team, led by Oceana’s Chief Scientist Mike Hirshfield and Oceana’s vice president for Europe, Xavier Pastor, will also include research by Dr. Jeff Short, Oceana’s Pacific science director and one of the world’s leading experts on Exxon Valdez and the effects of oil spills from his years as a government scientist at NOAA. The crew also includes scientists, divers and underwater photographers from our U.S., Chile and Spain offices, as well as academic scientists.

Working from the Latitude, a 167-foot ship capable of sailing in shallow and deep waters, the crew will test for underwater oil and study important seafloor habitats as well as the migratory marine life affected by the spill. This includes endangered sea turtles as well as the rare whale shark.

We are fortunate to have supporters who believe in Oceana’s targeted, science-based work and make this kind of original research possible. The facts uncovered by our on-the-water team will be critical in the fight to end dangerous offshore drilling.

You can give today to help us support the critical work of the expedition. Please help us protect the oceans today!

When the expedition launches in early August, we will post frequent updates on Oceana.org, and I’ll be sure to share the most exciting developments with you.

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.


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Ten Myths about the Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

Photo by Kris Krug via Flickr

At yesterday’s TedxOilSpill, I spoke to the crowd about the questions I hear most from people who don’t see eye to eye with me on why the disaster in the Gulf is our call to action.

Here are my responses to the naysayers -- feel free to use these with any clean energy skeptic you come across.

1) Isn't the Deepwater drilling disaster just like an airplane crash? We don't shut down aviation when a plane crashes.

No. In an airplane crash, most of the victims are those who were on the airplane. In this case, most of the victims are the millions of people living in the Gulf. This is more like the guy who built a campfire in the dry season, against regulations, and burned down the national forest and all the towns and cities alongside it. That's why we have regulations against building campfires during the dry season: Not because every camper burns down his campsite, but because all we need is one. We have laws against dry season campfires, and we should have laws against ocean oil drilling.

2) There are 3600 drilling platforms in the gulf. Are you going to shut them all down?

We're not calling for a shutdown of the platforms, just of drilling. Once the wells are drilled, the risks go down. The pumping can continue, but the drilling has to stop.

3) So then isn't this just a deep-water problem? Can't we continue in the shallow water?

Ocean drilling in shallow water is also very risky. One of the top three oil drilling disasters of all time, Ixtoc 1, was in 160 feet of water. And last August, the Montara rig blow-out near Australia, which took 11 weeks to control, was in just 250 feet of water.


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Dr. Daniel Pauly on The Spill

Oceana board member and renowned fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly spoke to OnEarth magazine about the gulf oil spill’s effect on marine life and fisheries.

“We cannot really grasp the measure of this accident because we don’t know if we are at the beginning, the middle or near the end of it,” he says.

Watch the video for more from Pauly.

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.


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We Hate to Say We Told You So…

In 2009, not long after Obama’s inauguration, we created the ad you see here to encourage our new leader and administration to prevent expanded offshore drilling and turn our country’s energy policy around.

Here we are a year later, and the image now seems chillingly prescient, given the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for more than a month now.


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