Sep 2, 2008

Don't Surrender

from Orlando Sentinel Editorials August 08:

We think: Opponents of more offshore drilling should stand firm

With gasoline prices still painfully high, polls show it's risky for politicians to stand in the way of more offshore oil drilling. That's been enough to persuade plenty of them to abandon their well-founded opposition.

Political courage, like oil, can be hard to find.

But the federal government's own Energy Information Administration has debunked the notion that Americans would get quick relief from high gas prices if lawmakers would only lift the congressional moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The EIA says oil produced from those areas would not hit the market for up to a decade.
Even by 2030, it's impact on gas prices would be insignificant--perhaps a few pennies per gallon.

Offshore-drilling advocates also argue that additional production would reduce US dependence on imported oil. Same story: New crude would take years to materialize. Even then, the EIA projects the oil from waters now off-limits to drilling would meet just 1.4 percent of total US demand in 2025.

Most of the offshore reserves--79 percent-already are open for drilling, according to to the federal Minerals Management Service. Now consider that United States had just 3 percent of the worlds oil reserves but accounts for 24 percent of the world's consumption.

Yet these limited gains from additional drilling would increase environmental hazards for Florida and the other coastal states.

Drilling advocates often cite the lack of a major spill from Gulf platforms during Hurricane Katrina and Rita as proof that rigs are environmentally safe. In fact, the two hurricanes caused more than 100 smaller spills totaling more than 700,000 gallons.

A spill in the eastern Gulf could devastate Florida's $65 billion a year tourism industry--not just for what it might do to the coast's beaches, but also for the harm it could do to marine life. A spill also could threaten the Atlantic coast because of the current that flows from the Gulf through the Florida straits to the Gulf Stream.

Risks such as these led Florida's two US senators to hammer out a 2006 compromise on drilling in the Gulf. It opened 8.3 million more acres to drilling but created a 125 mile buffer off Florida's coast. Given the marginal impact on prices and production, and the risks to the environment, of still more drilling, there is no call for sinking that deal.

Expanding offshore drilling also would undermine the imperative of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It would abet America's oil addiction. It would divert attention from developing cleaner, more secure alternatives, and from conservation.

There's no need for foes of additional offshore drilling to wave the white flag. They still have reason on their side.

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