The Beacon

Blog Tags: Andy Sharpless

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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Tears and Laughter at TEDxOilSpill

Oceana Pollution Campaign Director Jackie Savitz. (Photo by Kris Krug)

After watching and reading news reports and blog posts about the Gulf oil spill for more than two months, I was wondering if anything new could be said about the catastrophe.

As I found out at yesterday’s TEDxOilSpill conference, the answer is a resounding yes. Scientists, entrepreneurs, anthropologists, activists, musicians and writers came together to vent, and to try and wrap their heads around how this could have happened, and to bat around solutions, immediate and long-term.

Over and over, I heard riffs on a theme: this is an unprecedented disaster, and we are still in the thick of it. We don’t know how bad it will get, or what the long-term effects will be. And now is our moment to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless fired off a list of ten myths about the oil spill and offshore drilling, and Oceana campaign director Jackie Savitz told the crowd that “it is time to tell the pusher (Big Oil) that we’re going clean.”

It was an intellectually and emotionally exhausting day – several presenters were brought to tears during their presentations.


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The Spring Oceana Magazine is Here!

The new issue of the Oceana Magazine has arrived!

This issue features news from the Gulf, including an in-depth look at the dangers of offshore drilling. The magazine also explores offshore wind as a source of clean, safe, sustainable energy. 

Also included: updated news on the status of loggerhead sea turtles, and the latest happenings in our newest office in Belize, plus a profile of "Top Chef" finalist Bryan Voltaggio. Chef Voltaggio even gave us the recipe for one of his favorite sustainable fish dinners so you can make it at home!

Check out the magazine for more Oceana goodies.


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Join Us at TEDxOilSpill Next Monday

TED conferences “bring together the world's leading thinkers and doers for a series of talks, presentations and performances.” So it was only a matter of time until TED tackled the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Next Monday, TEDxOilSpill will tackle the tough questions raised by the ongoing environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. And you can be a part of the conversation.

Topics will include: mitigation of the spill and the impending cleanup efforts; energy alternatives; policy and economics; and new technology that can help us build a self-reliant culture.

The presenters will include the following experts:


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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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New Climate Bill Bribes States, Risks Coastlines

Yesterday, Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman unveiled their climate change bill. As you know, the U.S.’s consideration of any climate change legislation is historic – but in the light of the Deepwater Drilling Disaster, the senators’ proposal leaves me dismayed.

The “American Power Act” trades away our oceans to the oil industry even as at least 5,000 barrels of oil continue to gush from the broken Deepwater Horizon pipeline every day.  Here’s the first released video of the broken pipeline spewing oil:


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Oil Spill Blame Game Misses the Point

There was plenty of finger pointing at this week’s Congressional oil spill hearings.

The chairman of BP America, Lamar McKay, said BP is responsible for cleaning up the spill, but he blamed Transocean for the failure of the safety seal.

Then Transocean CEO Steven Newman said that since BP is the operator, the spill is ultimately the oil giant’s fault. And Halliburton executive Tim Probert denied that flaws in his company's cement contributed to the leak.

Meanwhile, oil continues to flow, uninterrupted, into the Gulf of Mexico.

But what the company executives and government officials fail to recognize is that the oil spill is not the fault of one company -- it represents an endemic lack of accountability from the oil industry and government agencies as a whole. The catastrophe isn’t the result of one mistake, it’s the result of a fundamentally broken system.


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Letter to the G-20: Stop Fishing Subsidies

As I told you recently, I had the pleasure of participating in the TED Mission Blue voyage to the Galapagos Islands, led by legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle. I was one of seven “idea champions” on board, and this was my idea: We can tackle the problem of overfishing by curbing fishing subsidies.

Although 75 percent of the world's fisheries are now either overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation, many governments continue to provide huge subsidies -- about $20 billion annually -- to their fishing sectors.

The fleets are fishing at a level that’s as much as 2.5 times more than what’s required for sustainable catch levels.

I feel strongly that halting fishing subsidies is one of the single greatest actions that can be taken to protect the world’s oceans. And I was hoping others on board would agree with me. Canvassing on the ship with a clipboard and a pencil, I felt like I was back in school, collecting signatures in the cafeteria.

And it worked.


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Oilmageddon Continues Apace

Andy Sharpless (fourth from left) talks to Senator Bill Nelson (far left) and environmental advocates. © Oceana/Lindsay Orlowski

The Deepwater Drilling Disaster continues without resolution, as the first reports of sea turtles washing up on shore are starting to trickle in, and local fishermen are reluctantly accepting jobs working as cleanup crew for the company that has ruined their livelihoods.

As the oil continues to gush from Deepwater’s broken pipe at rates that cannot be accurately determined, we are looking at an oil disaster that will surpass Exxon Valdez in a matter of weeks, if it hasn’t already.

But this tragedy has galvanized opposition to offshore drilling.

Two notable developments have taken place this week already. On Tuesday, I was honored to speak to press in the shadow of the Capitol alongside Senators Bill Nelson, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, as well as the executive directors of the Sierra Club and Environment America.


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Oceana, Mission Blue Call on G-20 to Stop Overfishing Subsidies

Leading up to the G-20 Summit in Toronto next month, today Oceana and TED’s Mission Blue delivered a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling on G-20 nations to stop the expansion of worldwide fishing subsidies, and to prioritize a strong outcome in the World Trade Organization (WTO) fisheries subsidies negotiations.


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