The crew of the Latitude, Oceana’s research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, consists of Oceana scientists and campaigners who are committed to understanding the impacts of the worst oil spill in U.S. history. I have no doubt that the Latitude will come back with invaluable insight about the post-spill Gulf. But in the meantime, we already have facts in our arsenal to help make the argument against offshore drilling.
Here are my responses to energy skeptics who need more than 200 million gallons of
oil spewing into the Gulf to convince them that offshore drilling must end.
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.
There are 3,600 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.
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.
Don't we need to keep drilling in the ocean to keep gas affordable?
No. We import 60 percent of our oil. When BP, or any other oil company, discovers oil off the coast of America, will they give it to us at a special discount? No, of course not. The market price is set at the world market, so any find in American waters will be sold at that price.
Don't we need to drill for energy independence?
There is a path to energy independence, but it's not through drilling. The United States consumes 20 percent of the world's oil, but only has 2 percent 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.
But don't we need drilling for jobs?
This disaster proves one thing: if you thought ocean drilling was good for jobs, you were wrong. Three hundred thousand 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. If we don't drill, won't we displace demand to less safe places?
America should lead. If your policy is, "We cannot clean up and manage our oceans until the slowest, dirtiest government does it," that is a path to inaction and more disasters.
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 same people who approved the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
Won't ocean wind power hurt the oceans?
No. Numerous studies show that windmills do not harm the oceans.
Ocean wind power is great, but I don't use electricity in my car.
But you will.
For the oceans,
Oceana is grateful for the grants, contributions and support it has received from dozens of foundations and companies and thousands of individuals. Oceana wishes to thank all of its supporters, especially its founding funders as well as foundations that in 2009 awarded Oceana grants of $1 million or more: Arcadia Fund, Oak Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Sandler Foundation. For more information, please see Oceana’s annual reports at www.oceana.org/annualreport.