A False Solution Called Offshore Oil Drilling

Our nation is at an historical crossroads with how we choose to produce the energy that fuels our way of life.  One road paves the way for a clean energy future and leads to real energy independence, a healthier planet, economic opportunity and a reinvestment in our country’s innovative core.  The other road, paves the way for the expansion of offshore oil drilling with dirty oil money and hidden political agendas leaving an uncertain future for our southeastern coastal communities.

crossroadsRight now, big oil and their allies are making a huge push to expand offshore drilling operations in our region. They are working tirelessly to deceive the public about the risks and so-called “benefits” of rigging our southeastern coastlines.  Our elected officials, particularly those in the Florida state legislature, are hearing more from (and listening to) oil lobbyists than they are from concerned coastal constituents on this issue.  Talk of drilling in the Southeast is even rearing its ugly head in federal climate and energy policy discussions, a place where polluting fossil fuels certainly do not belong.

In late November, SACE’s Coastal Program Coordinator, Toni Reale co-hosted a webinar entitled “Rigging the Southeast: A Primer on Offshore Drilling” with Susan Glickman a consultant with SACE and NRDC.  This blog discusses a few highlights from that webinar, please view the presentation in its entirety as well as visiting our Take Action and Learn About Offshore Drilling pages for a more comprehensive look at this issue.

The Southeast Cannot Afford the Risks

Opening up our southeastern waters to offshore drilling puts our region’s coastal and ocean economies at risk. These sectors bring in hundreds of billions of dollars to our region and supply millions of jobs which are the lifeblood of many of our states. Environment America recently released a report comparing the economic impacts of  three of the largest sectors of our regions’ economy (coastal tourism and recreational and commercial fishing) to the economic impacts of recovering what little oil resources that potentially exist off our coasts. What they found is that these sectors are anywhere from 1.5 to 20 times more valuable than recovering the oil and natural gas off our coasts. This report, which does not include coastal real estate assets, along with many other resources demonstrates without a doubt that the Southeast cannot afford the risks associated with offshore drilling.

headlinestimorspillDrilling is NEITHER safe NOR clean.

Big oil’s track record with offshore drilling is ugly.  Offshore operations have had 40 large scale spills (>42,000 gallons) since 1964.  Thirteen of those were in the past decade and those are just the largest spills.  Smaller spills and pipe leaks are an everyday occurrence.  Also, in the past 10 years, 7 of the 13 large spills were hurricane-related.  Considering the vulnerability of our southeast coastline to hurricanes and tropical storms, these statistics have serious implications since most of the drilling happens in hurricane-prone areas.

The drilling industry has the potential to cripple coastal communities and we think the Australians would agree.  On August 21st, an oil platform off Western Australia ruptured and released between 6 – 9 millions gallons of oil (to put this into perspective, the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons).  It took the responsible party who is “using the latest drilling technology” 11 weeks and 5 attempts to stop the uncontrolled leak of oil and gas as well as the fire that engulfed the platform.  Right after the spill slicks could be seen from coastal towns more than 200 kilometers away from the rig.

offshore-drilling-graphDrilling will NEVER lead to energy independence.

Expanding drilling in the U.S. can never make us less dependent on foreign oil.  The United States contains only 2.5% of the world’s oil resources yet we consume 24% of them.  Based on current consumption rates (20 million barrels of oil per day), even if we were to recover all of the “technically recoverable” oil in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and along our Atlantic shoreline, it would only last the US 13 months. We could drill every national park, wildlife refuge, and coastline, and still need to import over 60% of what we would need. U.S. oil is only a drop in the bucket.  The only way we will ever reduce our dependency is to reduce our consumption.

Federal legislation that promotes clean, alternative energy and cuts global warming pollution will reduce our oil imports four times more than drilling.

What Happens in Florida Does Not Stay in Floridaoffshoreoilprblitz

Oil interests and their lobbyists have their sights set on the Sunshine State.  Since April of this year hundreds of thousands of dollars of mystery oil money has been funneled to state leaders by “a group of independent oil producers”.  They’ve also recruited two of the most powerful state lawmakers (Sen. Mike Haridopolos, a Melbourne Republican in line to be Senate president in 2010 and Rep. Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican set to become House speaker next year) to potentially sponsor an oil-drilling bill in 2010.  If these mystery oilmen get their way, Florida will set a unfortunate precedent for the rest of our region.  If the expansion of offshore drilling begins in Florida you better believe that there will be a rig coming soon to a beach near you no matter where you live in the Southeast.

Keep Drilling Out of Federal Climate Policy

The false promise that drilling our coasts can solve our energy crisis or make our country more energy independent is even making its way into the federal climate and energy legislation debate. This is an issue that all southeastern citizens must begin seriously paying attention to as oil spills do not stop at state lines. 

Call or write your federal elected officials today and tell them that you do not support a climate and energy bill that includes offshore drilling! If you live in Florida, offshore drilling will be a huge issue in 2010 and we are going to need your help to protect Florida’s beaches.  Arm yourself with additional facts and myth-busters by visiting our Take Action page.

The South has Alternatives!

Let’s not forget the bigger picture.  If we allow drilling, we backtrack on our nation’s goals of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and reducing our contribution to global warming pollution. We know what is at risk and we know that we have alternatives! Please check out SACE’s reports such as Yes We Can: Southern Solutions for a National RES and Local Clean Power. Don’t forget to bookmark our blog as SACE staff posts breaking news on renewable energy developments in our region frequently.

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11 Comments

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Folks let’s keep in mind the following

• Oil companies PAY the federal and state governments for the privilege of drilling offshore. That’s money going into the tax base that YOU don’t have to pay. The government uses those funds to build schools, roads and hospitals.
• Offshore drilling creates a huge number of high paying blue collar and white collar jobs. So YOU don’t have to pay for their unemployment benefits and they pay income taxes that eventually benefit you. Those same folks will be spending lots of money and buying lots of homes shore side.
• Economics 101 indicates that more supply = lower prices for the oil and natural gas that offshore drilling produces.
• More supply sourced domestically helps to insure that we have a more stable source of supply. This lowers the risk of being “cut off” by others. For the oil and gas market, this then psychologically serves to reduce the price of oil and gas and such will be reflected in how the commodity is priced.
• Offshore drilling is proven safe and clean. Probably much safer than the oil tankers that cruise in and out of the nations harbors daily.

So it’s no skin off your nose if the oil companies want to drill for oil. In fact, it benefits you directly and indirectly. It’s time that we get behind this for the good of the nation and the economy.


Comment by Jenn Asaco on December 10, 2009 2:09 pm


Well, actually oil companies don’t always pay for leases and the royalties flowing to state from leases are a pittance (Texas only 45 million/yr).

Actually, clean energy investment can employ thousands of unemployed Floridians – that already have the skill sets necessary to hit the ground running – without risking our $65 Billion yr tourist industry. You don’t really want to industrialize our coasts (the cash cow of FL), do you?

Econ 101 dictates that a globally insignificant amount of oil added to world supplies equals an insignificant downward pressure on prices. It’s all going to the international market, not here. Do you really think Exxon care about you?


Comment by kevin on December 10, 2009 2:56 pm


Do the oil companies really want to drill more, to supply more, to bring down gas prices? Also, the oil companies int the United States have maxed out refining capacity, to keep prices up. If you’re advocating more drilling in Southeast, and more production and supply, where will the refineries be built?

The faster, clearner way to bring down gas prices is through technical efficiency and conservation. Econ 101: decrease demand, prices go down.


Comment by Serious Implications on December 10, 2009 6:40 pm


More drilling does NOT lead to lower gas prices. Over the past 8 years, the number of drilling permits granted has increased 361% while gas prices have simultaneously doubled. The Department of Energy even admits that “because oil prices are determined on the international market… any impact on average prices is expected to be insignificant”.

I highly recommend taking a look at our webinar presentation on this topic that debunks all of the most common myths associated with drilling such as safety and price: http://www.cleanenergy.org/index.php?/Webinar-Archive.html.

Additionally, check out our Help Drill for Solutions Not for Oil page that contains a fact sheet, more information, and ways to get involved: http://www.cleanenergy.org/index.php?/Take-Action.html?form_id=51&item_id=106


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Amazingly, even though the evidence that offshore drilling is not only very safe and is far offshore, anti-drilling zealots still promote half-truths and lies to foster their supposedly “energy independence” agendas. Oil and gas production off the coasts of the United States is absolutely unavoidable. It is not a matter of when but a matter of whom. If we do not allow drilling off the coast of the U.S. by companies friendly to the U.S. with revenue generating agreements with the individual states, the oil and gas will be taken by someone else. Florida will lose billions of dollars per year in revenues sharing by being left out as companies using new technologies drill and siphon out gas and oil hundreds of miles away. Anti-drill advocates create fear with stories of ruined tourisim trade and devestated marine industry losses, all of which have no basis in fact in today’s rapidly changing world. Florida needs to get a grip on the truth and wake up that if it does not participate in oil and gas exploration and drilling now, the state will be on the outside looking in forever.


Comment by Robert Brewster on December 28, 2009 11:33 am


I don’t know if we’re doing as much damage as advertised by many, but it’s certainly possible. Does anybody know how much “carbon” we’re putting into the atmosphere and oceans in comparison to how much is input naturally (volcanoes, forest fires, living things dying, the sun, etc)? I see a problem in that tapping into alternative energies has an (often) “unseen” affect on the environment as well. Harvesting/intercepting/harnessing/transmitting energy from the sun, wind, waves, etc., does not come without an expense to nature either. Then you have the added impact of discarding/recycling the past’s dominant infrastructure plus the impact of producing the next generation infrastructure. It’s definitely not “impact free”. The only thing I feel somewhat confident about is that the most surefire way to reduce our “impact” is to somehow reduce energy usage, which is not very amenable to our way of life and creates more of the the kind of jobs people “don’t want to do”.

The most troublesome aspect to this “debate” is that the “winners” stand to get very wealthy at the expense of the “losers” regardless of whether or not the result is ultimately best for the earth and its inhabitants. Whether it be the oil companies, or government bureaucrats, the oppotunity for dishonesty and corruption is a big, legitimate concern. It just seems to me that corrective discipline can be exacted much more quickly against a big company via the marketplace than it can against a bureaucracy via the ballot/appointment.


Comment by tsimitpo on April 12, 2010 1:27 pm


I spit my gum on the grass, recycle every blue moon, use plastic and paper bags. Let’s put aside profits, supply, demand, jobs, money, and get down to what really matters: the environment. IF a spill occurs our environment is adulterated.Folks expect the unexpected. No matter what “safety” procedures we follow our environment will be tainted.I do not think its a great idea to offshore drill period anywhere or any place. We, as humans, use every resource on this planet as well as the animals we consume daily, so we need to protect it as much as we use it. If we are running out of crude, then we need to find other means, and we have. Can we put that into perspective?


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