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.
4) OK then, don't we need to keep drilling in the ocean to keep gas affordable?
No. We import 60% of our oil. When BP, or any other oil company, discovers oil off the coast of America, what price does it sell for? Will they give it to us at a special discount? No, of course not. They sell it at the price we have already shown we are willing to pay. The market price is set at the world market, so any find in American waters will be sold at that price.
5) Don't we need to drill for energy independence?
There is a path to energy independence, but it's not through drilling, in the sea or on land. The United States consumes 20% of the world's oil, but only has 2% of the world's reserves. We’re going to be importing oil for a long time, so we can’t de-couple the price of gasoline from the world price of oil and we can’t be oil independent any time soon. But we can make clean energy more affordable. Wind power from the ocean should be a big part of that.
6) But don't we need to drill for jobs?
This disaster proves one thing: if you thought ocean drilling was good for jobs, you were wrong. 300,000 people depend on recreational fishing in the Gulf alone, and that’s not counting commercial fishing and tourism jobs as well. Clean energy investments provide three times the jobs per dollar invested.
7) If we don't drill, won't we displace demand to less safe places?
America should lead. If our policy is, "We cannot clean up and manage our oceans until the slowest, dirtiest government does it," that is not a path we want to be part of.
8) If ocean wind power is such a good idea, why isn't it happening?
Because guess who has been given authority for ocean wind power in America? The MMS, the same people who approved the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
9) Won't ocean wind power hurt the oceans?
No. Numerous studies show that windmills do not harm the oceans.
10) Ocean wind power is great, but I don't use electricity in my car.
But you will.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.