Last week the Obama Administration announced that it would open up the outer continental shelf or oil and gas production. It was a proposal that is very reminiscent of the Bush Administrations removal of the decades old ban on offshore drilling which I wrote about in “Another short sighted solution that solves nothing.” While this proposal sounds like a Bush administration plan, it is supposed to be part of a broader energy strategy. President Obama in is announcement of the plan said:
I want to emphasize that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies on homegrown fuels and clean energy. And the only way this transition will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short term and the long term. To fail to recognize this reality would be a mistake.
The problem with the plan is that I do not thin it will do what it is supposed to do. The Obama Administration’s plan to open up the OCS will do little to reduce fuel prices or availability of fossil fuels. It is also naïve to think that the oil and gas developed off our coasts will remain in the country. That oil and gas will go to the highest bidder no matter where they are located. It will also subject to the OCS from additional pollution. Pollution that is caused by the drilling process. Pollution that is caused by leaks in the systems of offshore drilling platforms, vessels and from the pipelines. Pollution that may arise from spills and other accidents.
Our oceans are already severely impacted by our pollution. To increase the amount of chemicals that are leaked into the oceans through the drilling process is not going to help our oceans. Also, is there were to be a major spill, that would devastate NJ’s economy. In 200?, NJ tourism was the second or third biggest industry in the State. If an oil spill was to occur off our coast, it could foul our beaches. And oil spills do occur. In January of this oil an oil tanker spilt 450,000 gallons in Port Arthur, Texas. In 2007 a tanker spilled 57,000 gallons of fuel into the San Francisco Bay causing $70 million of damage to the fisheries and beaches. I am not even mentioning The Valdez. By some estimates Hurricane Katrina caused 6.5 millions gallons of oil to be spilled into the environment.
There is another problem with opening up the OCS for oil and gas exploration. Even though the President suggests this is a short term plan. The short term plan seems to be counter to the Administrations clean energy platform and to combating global energy. As President Obama said last years United Nations Conference on Climate Change:
Now, as the world’s largest economy and as the world’s second largest emitter, America bears our responsibility to address climate change, and we intend to meet that responsibility. That’s why we’ve renewed our leadership within international climate change negotiations. That’s why we’ve worked with other nations to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. That’s why we’ve taken bold action at home — by making historic investments in renewable energy; by putting our people to work increasing efficiency in our homes and buildings; and by pursuing comprehensive legislation to transform to a clean energy economy.
I am also very concern that this new push for more oil and gas signals a retreat from or at least will impact our Country’s move toward renewable energy and to away from a commitment to combat climate change. How are we going to stop incentivizing oil and gas when we open up more areas for drilling? Are we going to lease them out for their full value? How are we going to grow the green energy while telling the world that oil and gas is here to stay? How do we credibly tell the world that we will lead it in solving climate change, when we cannot let go of the past.
Opening up the OCS for more oil and gas exploration is the wrong policy for many reasons.