Thursday, April 1, 2010

Obama Proposes More Offshore Drilling Areas

The Obama administration is proposing to open huge coastal areas for expansive oil and natural gas drilling. This would allow oil exploration along 167 million acres of ocean from Delaware to Central Florida. Nearly 130 million acres in the Arctic Sea would be opened too. Bristol Bay, a sensitive community with a few endangered species and plentiful fishing waters will be protected. The shore off of California will also be spared.

The proposal plans to reduce dependence on foreign oil while creating a comprehensive energy plan involving clean renewable energy. But is it worth it? It is hard to deny that we still haven't figured out how to clean up oil spills (and they are wiping out ecosystems).

The Senate may have one last chance to pass climate legislation before mid-term election concerns take over. Could this be a way to appease corporate interests? Offshore drilling would be a big desire granted. The trick is, keeping a strong enough environmentally-minded bill without letting it be stripped by outside interests.

It is not known how much potential fuel lies in the areas opened to exploration, although according to Interior Department estimates there could be as much as a three-year supply of recoverable oil and more than two years’ worth of natural gas, at current rates of consumption. But those estimates are based on seismic data that is, in some cases, more than 30 years old.

The eastern Gulf area is believed to contain as much as 3.5 billion barrels of oil and 17 trillion cubic feet of gas, the richest single tract that would be open to drilling under the Obama plan. Drilling there has been strongly opposed by officials from both political parties in Alabama and Florida who fear damage to coastlines, fisheries, popular beaches and wildlife. Interior Department officials said no wells would be allowed within 125 miles of the Florida and Alabama coasts, making them invisible from shore. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

So, what do you think? A planned transition? Or stuck in our ways?

-Neale Baldyga


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