Yesterday I attended a rally in San Francisco that opposed offshore drilling along the California coast. While technically there are no plans to drill for oil immediately off the San Francisco coastline, there are hopes from the oil companies to drill up north around Mendocino, but also plenty down south along the Santa Barbara coastline in particular.
I am strongly opposed to offshore drilling, and wanted to sum myself up a bit, especially in light of a post a friend of mine wrote who is more tolerant of the drilling.
First off, let’s talk about the actual oil. The US provides 3% of the world’s oil, and consumes 25% of it. If we were to fully explore all of our offshore oil reserves, then we’d raise the amount of oil we produce to almost 4%. That is a pretty marginal percent increase in the light of how much oil we use. Simply put, the numbers don’t add up. The argument that we are trying to become more energy independent and alleviate our reliance upon Middle Eastern oil is not going to be solved by oil. Also, this Drill Baby Drill movement gained steam when gas was $4 a gallon. If we were to drill for oil, we would not actually see that oil in our gas stations for over a decade. So, there will be no impact on gas prices in the short term, and the short term gas price was what got people fired up about ending the moratorium in the first place.
Now, let’s talk about the NIMBY argument. I don’t want offshore drilling, but it’s not because I don’t want to look at oil rigs when I surf. I don’t want more oil produced, period. We humans are addicted to oil consumption. Drilling for more oil only enables that addiction. As a friend of mine put it yesterday, drilling for oil offshore is like having a crackhead try to break his reliance upon his supplier by just going on and making his own crack. He’s still doing crack. He’s not off the crack, he’s just trying to be “self-reliant” in it. So in order to break our oil addiction, we need to take some big steps, and drilling for more oil is not one of them. First off, we need massive behavioral changes. We need to stop being so wasteful with our energy consumption, period. I can pretty proudly say that the people who attended yesterday’s rally that I personally knew are strong examples of this type of personal, behavioral responsibility. The amount of energy you consume needs to be constantly on your radar. You can pretty easily live on a cheap PG&E bill and without filling up your tank too much, you just need to make decisions that will make it so. Also, if I was to see some sort of machinery out at sea, I’d much rather see big wind turbines than oil rigs. We need to explore the true costs and benefits of installing huge wind turbines out at sea, or else trying to tap into wave energy…of course, assuming that these options are minimally invasive to the marine ecosystems that we’d be building in. And if it’s worth it, then let’s put those off our coasts, but not oil rigs.
And lastly, I want to in particular address the point that Ocean Beach is not a particularly lovely beach. There are syringes all over the place, there was a huge oil spill there a year and a half ago, there’s sewage that goes into the beach, etc. I agree: OB is no Tahitian paradise. However, another friend of mine took an overgrown, polluted, and trash-laden strip of Lobos Creek, the last free-flowing creek in San Francisco, and turned it into a beautiful, natural spot for relaxation and reflection that is filled with native-species flora and fauna. Just because our beach is currently dirty doesn’t mean we should tolerate it looking even more ugly. Instead, we should be out there taking care of it, and cleaning it up to restore it into the natural beauty that it was before us humans started dirtying it up. While offshore drilling is cleaner and safer, it still ups the chances that someday in the future, more oil will coat the beaches that we live by, surf in, and love.
I didn’t actually go inside the hearing, but I hear that the Secretary of the Interior Salazar was pretty open to listening to what people had to say. And the comments in the hearing were overwhelmingly one-sided: our elected officials loudly said that we don’t want offshore oil drilling. Not in California, not in the Gulf or the Atlantic, not anywhere. It’s not only a bandaid solution, it’s a bandaid solution that doesn’t even accomplish anything.
For some more thoughts on this, check out www.nottheanswer.org. Sure, it’s opinion is clear, but there’s also a lot of good facts backing it up.