A moratorium on offshore drilling instated in 1982 expired in 2010, and now, new deep-water oil drilling projects will be built unless action is taken to reinstate the moratorium. The ban, which applies to the rocky Outer Continental Shelf areas off of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, was implemented in response to an oil platform spill of unparalleled damage, caused by Unocal (now Chevron) in 1982. While this ban was supported by Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, it was lifted by President George W. Bush in 2008 and expired in the same year. The White House then laid out a plan to implement drilling projects in these areas, but soon after his inauguration, President Obama announced that his administration would not carry out these plans.
Now, drilling projects could be instated on the Outer Continental Shelf unless the White House is persuaded to reinstate a ban on drilling in these areas. Offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has contributed to environmental damage, deaths in workers and pollution, as the oil can seep out from under the platforms into the ocean – all risks that could be incurred on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts if new oil rigs are installed.
From 1995 to 2007, offshore oil projects spilled 65,000 barrels of oil per year into the surrounding oceans, a figure 64 percent higher than the amount of oil released annually in the preceding ten years. From 1964 to 2009, a total of more than 520,000 barrels of oil were spilled in the Gulf of Mexico. Offshore drilling also produces over 214,000 pounds of air pollutants each year, including chemicals like nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and arsenic.
Oil spills, such as the BP spill in April of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, have long-lasting and devastating effects for humans, the environment and wildlife. Efforts to clean up the 2010 BP spill are still ongoing, and its effects have killed countless marine animals and contaminated the shores as the oil seeped into the land. Oil companies are currently allowed to drill in the Gulf of Mexico without obtaining permits to examine potential threats to the area’s endangered species.
Oil platform workers work under high risk, which is increasing as the number of reported fires and massive blowouts on the oil platforms has grown since 2005. Chevron’s oil project in the Gulf of Mexico reported 9 injuries and 15 fires in 2009, and the company has lost workers in four of the last five years.
Oil production methods are not sustainable or environmentally friendly: offshore oil production kills up to 60 percent of wetlands and damages the coastal land in the Gulf of Mexico, contributing to erosion, flooding and drought, which affect local fisheries and eco-tourism along the country’s southern coast.
Proponents of new offshore oil platforms argue that the projects will help reduce the United States’ reliance on importing oil from countries in the Middle East. Even with additional oil wells built, though, it is uncertain whether the U.S. will be able to become completely independent of foreign oil. Drilling for oil in the U.S. is not expected to bring down the price of gas, and there are also millions of barrels of oil left untapped in the Gulf of Mexico, where drilling is already allowed.
Rather than focusing money, time and energy into building new offshore oil plants, the United States should invest money into creating renewable energy, which is cleaner, greener and more reliable than oil.
A ForceChange.com petition has been drafted to urge the President to support another moratorium of offshore drilling. To voice your opinion and your support for the environment, sign this petition and demand that U.S. waters, beaches and marine life be kept safe from the threats of further offshore drilling.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/mikebaird/3898808431/