By Jaime McClain
On Wednesday, Oceana released a report that found offshore wind energy in the Atlantic would produce twice the number of jobs and twice the amount of energy as those promised by the oil and gas industry. The report, “Offshore Energy by the Numbers, the Economic Analysis of Offshore Drilling and Wind Energy in the Atlantic," sought to not only provide an accurate comparison of oil and gas to wind energy, but also to outline the implications of each option on a state-by-state basis.
“The environmental benefits of developing offshore wind as compared to offshore drilling are well known, but now we have an analysis of how offshore wind would produce more jobs and energy,” Oceana energy analyst and report author Andrew Menaquale explains. “Even better, that energy would be provided directly to coastal communities, as opposed to oil and gas, which would be shipped away, some of it to other countries.”
The report not only critiques the flaws in the oil and gas industry’s estimates, but also points towards a more than viable alternative: wind energy. The report explains how offshore wind would create 91,000 more jobs than those offered by the oil and gas industries — which would double the job creation potential of offshore drilling in the Atlantic.
Meanwhile, oil and gas exploration, development and transportation actually pose a risk to the nearly 1.4 million jobs in coastal cities by introducing dangerous seismic airgun blasting and increasing the likelihood of disastrous oil spills. With over $95 billion in gross domestic product dependent upon the fishing, tourism and recreational industries of these coastal states, healthy ocean ecosystems are essential to the economic well-being of the East Coast.
Additionally, the report outlines how the profits portrayed by the oil and gas industry are short-term. The entire Atlantic Coast contains less than four percent of the nation’s oil reserves, and three percent of the gas reserves. Such a minimal and finite supply of oil and gas would only meet current national consumption rates for less than five months and ten months, respectively, by government estimates. Meanwhile, wind energy would double the amount of energy promised by recoverable oil and gas reserves. And unlike oil and gas, wind energy would be used to directly meet the ongoing power needs of the East Coast.
“A common misconception is that oil and gas resources stay in the area to be used to benefit local communities, but this is not the case,” says Menaquale. “Instead, these resources are sold on the global market, and only leave locals with the long-term risks of an oil spill and threats to their local economies.”
The report comes in light of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) upcoming draft five-year plan for oil and gas leasing. Seeking to expand operations to the East Coast, the oil and gas industries have claimed that Atlantic offshore drilling could create thousands of jobs and generate millions of dollars in revenue, all while leading the country towards energy independence. Oceana, however, has found such claims to be highly misleading. The report notes that the estimates are dependent upon the inclusion of oil and gas reserves that are not economically recoverable to develop. Additionally, the revenue benefits touted by industry rely on a state revenue-sharing system that simply does not exist in the Atlantic.
Ocean ecosystems and the communities that rely on their health are affected by oil and gas operations long before rigs are ever put in the water. In order to locate potential drilling sites, seismic airguns are used to search the ocean floor. These dynamite-like blasts are disruptive to sea life; by the governments own estimates, such blasts could harm injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals, like whales and dolphins. In addition, studies have shown that seismic blasts startle fish populations, putting fishermen’s livelihoods at risk. Despite such drastic consequences, the Obama administration is considering allowing such testing to begin in waters from Delaware to Florida, in an area twice the size as California.
“Instead of working to fully understand the potentially devastating consequences of rushing to develop offshore oil and gas, many elected officials are being blinded by Big Oil’s claims of imaginary short-term profits,” Menaquale said in a press release.
As the government’s draft five year plan approaches, the report allows the public to realize the true environmental and economic impacts of oil and gas, while offering an alternative that has already been in development for over 20 years abroad. And if given the opportunity, offshore wind would more than adequately supply power and jobs to the East Coast, paving the way for safe, clean alternative energy in the United States.
“Internationally, offshore wind capacities in 2013 demonstrated a 50 percent increase over the previous year, with Europe currently leading the way. The United States is now poised to demonstrate that offshore wind can be a commercially viable option, with plans underway to begin construction on the first offshore wind farm in U.S. waters this year,” Menaquale said.