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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Last week I participated in one of the most inspiring events in my tenure in the ocean conservation movement: the Mission Blue voyage to the Galapagos.
The voyage was led by legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle and included about 100 movers and shakers, including celebrity environmentalists such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton, Glenn Close and 30 of the world's leading marine scientists and non-profit leaders (like me).
We all had one question in mind: How can we work together to save the oceans?
I’m thrilled to write that we were able to put aside our conservation turf battles and collaborate to find real answers to the ocean’s biggest problems. In just four days, we spearheaded the following initiatives:
That’s a head-spinning amount of progress in four days -- but I can’t say I’m surprised considering all the brainpower and talent on board.
The folks at TED recorded more than 20 talks on ocean issues while on board, so be sure to look out for those in the coming months.
You can read more details about the background on the Mission Blue voyage at the TED blog.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
I recently got some very heartening news here at Oceana from some of our youngest supporters.
The seventh and second grade students at Good Shepherd Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas were inspired by our “Scared for Sharks” campaign and raised more than $2,500 for Oceana through a week of bake sales and a “Caring Color Day,” where students wore blue and gray "shark colors" and donated $2 each.
It was especially nice to hear this news in light of the recent decision by CITES not to protect endangered marine species, including sharks.
Of course, Oceana is still moving forward to protect sharks around the world. We’ve already helped the United States become a leader in shark protections, and we’re continuing to push the U.S. to put a final end to shark finning, the brutal fishing practice that is responsible for tens of millions of shark deaths every year.
We’ll use the donation from the students of Good Shepherd to continue to fight to save sharks. You can help today, too, by donating or asking your senators to support legislation that ends shark finning.
Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.
I’d like to give you a sneak peak at the first international green charity auction to be held on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, 2010.
Christie’s International has invited four leading nonprofits to be the beneficiaries of its first charity auction for conservation: Oceana, Conservation International, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Central Park Conservancy. Between us, we work on all seven continents – and, of course, the oceans in between.
A Bid to Save The Earth will include a live auction at Christie’s New York City space in Rockefeller Center as well as a silent auction conducted online at Charity Buzz. Every item up for bid is donated, and Christie’s is waiving all its usual fees to allow the maximum impact for the beneficiaries.