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.
Right 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.
Drilling 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.
Drilling 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 Florida
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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