Shortsighted Obama Plan Opens Southeastern Shores to Drilling

Guest Blog | April 2, 2010 | Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy, Offshore Drilling
picture-3Yesterday, President Obama backed down from a campaign promise to uphold the moratorium on offshore drilling that has protected our southeastern shorelines from oil interests for decades.  His announcement proposes to open up 167 million ocean acres in federal waters from Delaware to the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas exploration.  This plan is not only shortsighted in terms of our nation’s long-term energy needs, but would put thousands of miles of coastal habitat, communities and economies at risk.

The President stated that this announcement is part of a much broader strategy that will move our nation’s economy from running on fossil and dropinbucketforeign oils to one that “relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy.”  The truth is that we cannot drill our way to energy independence.  The United States currently consumes about 24% of the world’s oil while we only hold 2.5% of the world’s reserves.  We actually import two-thirds of our daily oil needs.  The amount of oil available in the Atlantic and the Eastern Gulf would only last our nation about 13 months of supply at present rates of consumption.   No matter what we recover, it will only be a drop in the bucket.

Despite the battle cry of “Drill Here Drill Now”,  the Department of Energy states that it will take nearly a decade for any recoverable reserves to even come online.  Instead of directing tax-payer dollars toward private companies to extract unsustainable and non-renewable resources, we should be boldly embracing energy efficiency, clean energy fuel development and renewable energy options.  This is the only true path forward to energy independence.

The Southeast’s future hangs in the balance

We must not forget what is at risk here. The Southeast coast is home to more than 16 million residents, and the property value along this shoreline alone total $2.2 trillion. We rely on our coastline as an economic engine that attracts diverse visitors and outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy the region’s coastal marshes, barrier islands and other unique natural and historic features. Coastal tourism activity creates thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars in revenue across the region.  Although the President’s proposal is calling for the opening up of federal waters to oil exploration, the onshore infrastructure associated with these activities will change the face and integrity of coastal communities throughout our region. Over 2,000 miles of southeastern shoreline, steeped in rich cultural history would be forever altered for insignificant short-term gains.

“Not only would offshore drilling threaten coastal habitats and place our coastal tourism economies at risk, it is the wrong solution as we seek clean energy options to address climate change.  Offshore energy sources such as wind and wave energy can help us break our addiction to fossil fuels while moving towards a clean energy economy. This is the kind of change we are looking for.” – Dr. Stephen A. Smith, E.D., SACE

Let’s drill for solutions not for oil

nwf2008Drilling for more oil only feeds our addiction. 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.

We must also find meaningful solutions that will solve the problem and transition us to a low carbon transportation system.  We can do this by increasing fuel efficiency standards which the President has said he will be announcing soon.  These fuel savings could decrease global warming pollution by billion of tons of carbon dioxide per year not to mention that every drop of oil saved is one that we don’t have to drill for.

We must also develop sustainable biofuels.  Advanced biofuel sources like woody biomass and switchgrass can sustainably produce 300-1000 gallons of fuel per acre. These dedicated energy crops can provide alternative fuels that won’t affect food prices and will keep money in our local economies.  Lastly, we need to develop advanced transportation systems that will help us shift from liquid fuels and encourage other options like plug-in hybrids.

More resources

Yesterday, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy released a statement on President Obama’s proposal.  Read it here.

Read SACE’s offshore drilling fact sheet, web-based resources and listen to our webinar titled “Rigging the Southeast: A Primer on Offshore Drilling”.

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