President lifts offshore drilling ban
A few weeks ago, President George W. Bush lifted his father’s 1990 executive order banning offshore drilling for oil along the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts. He then demanded that Congress end its own 1981 federal prohibition against energy exploration offshore and on other federal lands as well. The president’s stated reasons for opening up these protected areas to oil companies are to help bring gas prices down, and to help make the U.S. independent of foreign oil.
It was easy to debunk both reasons the president gave, and expose them as lies intended to manipulate public opinion. By now, everyone has heard that it would take at least ten years to bring new leases into production, and twenty years for them to reach peak production, so new platforms won’t make any contribution toward solving our current economic problems.
Furthermore, the amount of oil produced from the continental shelves would be such a small fraction of total U.S. consumption that it would not make a real difference in the supply, and so new leases won’t have any affect on the price of fuels even twenty years from now. And is there enough obtainable oil in the continental shelves to free the U.S. from dependence on foreign oil? Of course not.
The big oil companies don’t want more oil. They aren’t using the leases they have now. Over the past five years, the number of domestic drilling permits has nearly doubled, and there are some 68 million acres already leased to big oil companies that have never been drilled on.
The oil giants don’t want more oil. More oil would likely kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Here is what Clifford Krauss of the New York Times said: Exxon is the world’s largest publicly traded oil company. Its second quarter profits rose 14 percent, to $11.68 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. That was the greatest profit ever recorded by a corporation in a three month period, and it beat the previous record of $11.66 billion set by Exxon in the last three months of 2007. (
Drill more oil wells to increase the supply of oil and force the price of fuels to go down? The oil giants do not want more and cheaper gas at the pump — they want their profits to keep right on setting records.

What do the giants want?
If the oil giants don’t want more oil, then why do they want the coastlines and Arctic opened up to leasing and exploration? They are after three things. They want to prolong their profiteering, so what they need is a long-lasting supply of oil, a steady supply rationed out to keep those record profits coming as long as possible.
They also want to grab all the low-hanging fruit, the cheapest and easiest oil. It’s far cheaper to drill off the shores of California, Oregon and Washington, than in distant deserts or in the remote and frozen north.
But what it really comes right down to is this: The oil industry is pushing for unfettered and unregulated access to America’s coasts, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and wilderness for drilling. They want license to drill in America’s most precious and pristine natural areas, places where they are forbidden from drilling now, and with very good reason.

Good reasons for the ban
The prohibitions against offshore oil drilling were imposed for good reasons, and one of those reasons was the Santa Barbara blowout of 1969.
It had started out to be a routine operation. It was Tuesday morning, January 28th, and about five miles off the coast, and a pipe was being extracted from a deep well beneath the Union Oil Company’s offshore drilling rig “Alpha.” But because not enough drilling mud had been pumped back down the well to compensate for the sudden build up of natural gas at extreme pressure. The gas ripped open the well casing and made huge cracks in the sea floor around the well, an event that’s called a blowout. For eleven days, immense amounts of oil and natural gas under great pressure blasted from the blowout and violently roiled the surface of the ocean around oil rig Alpha.
More than three million gallons of thick, gooey oil coated 35 miles of the famously beautiful beaches of the Santa Barbara Channel. The oil on some beaches was six inches deep. Eight hundred square miles of ocean were impacted. Kelp forests were devastated. Thousands of seabirds died in the oil, along with innumerable fish and intertidal invertibrates, dolphins, seals and otters. (
That happened 39 years ago. Today we are proudly told that such disasters are a thing of the past because of advancements in technology. It is true about the technology. It is highly advanced, but human error is still the same old human error. Take for example the Exxon Valdez disaster.
On March 24, 1989 the Exxon Valdez ran aground in the Prince William Sound in Alaska splitting its side open and spilling 11 million gallons of oil. The oil slick was said to be eight miles wide, and it contaminated about 1,300 miles of coastline. Around 250,000 seabirds, nearly 3,000 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles and up to 22 killer whales died as a result of the spill. (

Besides equipment failure and human error there is always the threat of natural disasters. The best technology in the world cannot prevent natural disasters. Proponents of offshore drilling like to claim that no oil leaks or spills occurred as a result of Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Rita in 2005. Here is a snippet from Think Progress: Sen. John McCain: “I’m aware that off the coast of Louisiana and Texas there are oil rigs, as we well know, and those rigs have survived, very successfully, the impacts of hurricanes – hurricane Katrina as far as Louisiana is concerned.”
McCain is wrong. According to press reports, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita “tore through the Gulf of Mexico’s offshore oil and gas fields, toppling production platforms, setting rigs adrift and rupturing pipelines.” The U.S. Minerals Management Service reported that the hurricanes totally destroyed 113 offshore oil platforms. (
The reality from the U.S. Minerals Management Service: “As a result of both storms, a total volume of 17,652 barrels (or roughly three-quarters of a million gallons) of total petroleum products, of which 13,137 barrels were crude oil and condensate, was spilled from platforms, rigs and pipelines. 4,514 barrels were refined products from platforms and rigs.”

The point is that there is no such thing as immunity from disaster when you have gigantic oil platforms operating off your coast. Offshore oil drilling involves a variety of great risks. That’s why Governor Kulongoski signed into law a bill banning offshore oil and gas exploration on the Oregon Coast. That happened last year, on June 22, 2007,
All three governors of the west coast states, Ted Kulongoski, Chris Gregoire and Arnold Schwarzenegger, have repeatedly emphasized their opposition and vowed to fight drilling as part of a three-state ocean health agreement announced July 29th of this year.

What can we do?
The answer to our energy problems is not more drilling off our coasts. What we need is a rapid conversion from our dependence on burning fossil fuels to the full exploitation of unlimited, nonpolluting energy sources and the creation of a culture of energy alternatives and efficiency. Alternative energy technologies exists, they work amazingly well, and other countries are using them now.
We are staring into the face of catastrophic climate change. The time has arrived. We must make the necessary changes. Alternative energy and energy efficiency can make the U.S. independent of imported fossil fuels, clean up the environment, and protect the oceans.

Editors note: My special thanks to Bob Fischer for taking this weeks ‘duel’ in The Sentinel, not surprisingly he did a great job.