Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Offshore Drilling in Hurricane Central...with No Insurance

At the risk of creating an endless loop of blogs referring back and forth to each other, I highly recommend checking out Jim Moriarty's Oceans Waves Beaches blog posting Offshore Drilling in Hurricane Central...with No Insurance.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

South Carolina Goes in the Wrong Direction

According to an article published today in the Post and Courier, natural gas and oil exploration off the coast of South Carolina is expected to get a go-ahead from a state committee later this week. A feasibility study committee set up by the state Legislature will recommend asking a federal agency to include South Carolina as one of the states in a five-year plan that would open up exploratory drilling off the coast.

The recommendation states that drilling should be approved if it would produce sufficient revenue for the state and mitigate potential harm to tourism and the environment. So, how much is that? How much are our beaches worth? Over 10 years ago (1998) coastal tourism in South Carolina had an economic impact that totaled $7.5 billion in expenditures and output, generated $1.54 billion in wages and earnings, and gave 250,000 people a regular paycheck. In the same year, visitors to the coast spent $6.5 billion in the state and paid $500 million in state and local taxes.

In the article, Sen. Paul Campbell Jr., R-Goose Creek, was quoted as saying: "The (federal) Minerals Management Service does a heck of a job monitoring offshore facilities." Heck of a job. Where have we heard that before?

On the other hand, Hamilton Davis of the Coastal Conservation League said: "The whole discussion has been distorted, in my opinion. The emphasis on natural gas drilling has skirted the dangers of oil drilling, and the federal permit would allow both."

Maybe the state should listen to the views of an expert, like Mitchell Colgan, who is chairman of the College of Charleston's Geology and Environmental Geosciences Department and has worked for Shell Oil, the U.S. Geological Survey and on three oil reservoirs in Texas, New Mexico and Alaska. He stated in a recent interview:

"I really don't think there's any oil out there. ... To be able to find oil and drill for offshore oil requires a great deal of money. For an oil reservoir to be economically viable requires there to be a fairly good-sized reservoir. From my reviews of the public record, there are no oil reservoirs of any consequence that would entice anybody to drill. ... Even if one can identify a reservoir, and this oil is technically recoverable, it does not mean that it is economically recoverable."

He went on to say:

"The political energy spent on this discussion [whether we should drill for oil off the coast of South Carolina] should be used examining the political and economic feasibility of offshore wind-energy generation, as well as other locally produced clean energy. What drove our interest in drilling off of our coast was $4 per gallon gasoline. We have just witnessed this great collapse in the price of oil. This downturn did not occur because there were new oil discoveries. We did not find more oil; the world is using less. That's an important lesson for us. If we can take this time of cheaper energy to become more energy efficient, especially with regards to our automobiles, the need to drill for oil decreases markedly and we move toward greater energy independence."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Why is offshore oil drilling Not The Answer? Read this from John at
Offshore Drilling: Nobody’s Perfect

More on the Australian Oil Spill:

Oil and Gas Spew from Drilling Rig in Timor Sea

Workers evacuated after offshore drilling rig leaks oil

Australian Oil Spill - Lessons Learned

As you may be aware, a new offshore oil and natural gas well off the coast of Australia blew out last Friday and may continue spewing petroleum products into the ocean for up to two months. This very unfortunate incident illustrates two important points:

1. Spills are nearly always larger than first reports indicate. In this case, the initial newspaper accounts estimated that about 40 barrels of oil were discharged. Two days later, the size of the plume was said to be over 15 kilometers long, ships were advised to stay more than 20 nautical miles away from the rig, and it was estimated that the well is likely to pour oil into the Timor Sea for nearly two months before it can be stopped.

2. Offshore oil drilling is NOT SAFE! The oil industry and the "drill baby drill" crowd continually tell us about all the technological advancements that have occurred since the disastrous 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. They tell us that can't happen again and that we don't need to worry about oil on our beaches. Well, we just had another oil rig blow out. I wonder if the folks in Florida and the politicians that are supporting new drilling off Florida's coast are having second thoughts?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Feds must halt offshore oil development (Alaska)

Garamendi Victory Could Result in Offshore Oil Drilling (CA)

Offshore drilling debated (SC)

Leaders eye offshore energy production (SC)

Examiner Editorial: America sits back as others rush for black gold in Gulf

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

President Obama: America's Arctic Deserves Protection

The Surfrider Foundation is not active on issues in Alaska, but many of our partner organizations are and it's clearly a major center of the new oil drilling debate.

Check out this video from the Alaska Wilderness League

Friday, August 14, 2009

Oil Drilling Near Florida's Beaches is Not the Answer!

Surfrider Foundation joined with 16 other environmental organizations in July 2009 in sending the following letter to US Senators. Congress will again be considering risking the beaches and coastal economy of Florida by allowing new oil drilling close to shore when they return from their summer recess.

On behalf of the millions of members of our organizations, we are writing to oppose any legislation that would allow new oil and gas drilling off our coasts. Specifically, we ask that you remove language in American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 reversing the bipartisan agreement reached in the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). Our energy policy should promote responsible renewable energy, be based on sound science, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, Florida’s coasts are being sold to the highest bidder—the oil industry.

The risks to Florida's economy are great. Florida is dependent on its $65 billion-a-year tourism industry, which relies in large part on clean coastal waters and beaches for activities like swimming, boating and fishing. The risk of oil pollution -- from the drilling process, tankers and leaking or broken pipelines -- contaminating Gulf waters and washing ashore is real. The prevalence of hurricanes in this part of the country increases the threat of catastrophic spills. A spill in the eastern Gulf could potentially be carried by currents to coastal beaches, and to the Florida Keys.

Additionally the Eastern Gulf of Mexico houses a remarkable diversity of marine and coastal ecosystems, including coral reefs, mangroves, bays, estuaries, and tidal flats. The Gulf of Mexico is home to an abundance of marine wildlife, both in the shallow and the deep sea: from the surface where bluefin tuna spawn to the coral gardens which serve as nurseries for a variety of fish and other marine life. Increased oil development would threaten many of the habitats and structures that make the eastern Gulf so diverse.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee turned its back on Florida by agreeing to language that would allow drilling within 10 miles of Pensacola, and shrink the current 125-mile-wide buffer elsewhere along Florida's West Coast to 45 miles. In doing so, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is undoing an agreement made in 2006 to protect Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The 2006 GOMESA granted long-term protections until 2022 for Florida's Gulf Coast, in exchange for 8.2 million acres of drilling rights in previously-protected areas. In the absence of a moratorium on offshore drilling or other protections the Senate is setting a dangerous precedent with respect to the management of our oceans and marine ecosystems by going back on its agreement.

The Senate should create energy policy that increases investments in responsible renewable energy development consistent with the protection of wildlife and habitat, and that promotes energy efficiency and conservation, while creating jobs in new clean energy sectors, without putting our oceans and coasts and the economies they support at risk.

In the face of climate change, the continued extraction and burning of offshore oil and gas reserves makes even less sense. Global warming and ocean acidification threaten our ocean ecosystems, including low lying coastal areas, and coral reefs.

We urge you to uphold the commitment made by the Senate in 2006 to protect the treasured resources of Florida’s Gulf Coast, and to continue your efforts to move our nation away from the old and outdated energy policies of the past and toward a bright future of carbon-free energy, that maintains the health of our oceans and planet.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Oil interests sense weakness in California Legislature

by Amy Smart & Dan Jacobson in the Capitol Weekly:

Last week the state Assembly defeated a plan to drill off the coast of Santa Barbara. But the group behind this plan, a Houston-based oil company called Plains Exploration and Production, Co. (PXP), isn’t about to give up -- not when it has spent millions so far on PR and lobbying.

Wall Street investors, having heard that PXP’s lobbying efforts were able to get Gov. Schwarzenegger to reverse his position on drilling, have been pouring money into PXP. And the pressure is on PXP to push through its deal.

Later this month, PXP plans to resurrect the Tranquillion Ridge offshore oil drilling bill. Once again the company will blitz legislators with a hardball campaign and lobbying agenda.

While PXP (and the Wall Streeters who are betting on it) will make billions of dollars by tapping into a miniscule amount of oil (barely 10.13 billion gallons), millions of Californians will suffer.

The modern anti-offshore drilling movement gained significant steam after the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. At that time, approximately 100,000 barrels of crude spilled into the ocean, contaminating 150 miles of coast as well as devastating delicate marine ecosystems and endangering wildlife. It provided a vivid image of how dangerous offshore drilling is.

Now sensing weakness in the Legislature, today’s oil industry hopes to capitalize on the current budget crisis and tempt lawmakers with big oil money. Offshore oil drilling is not a viable alternative. Drilling has been—and still is—a dirty and dangerous business.

For years oil companies have talked about environmental safety and improved technology. They used this argument in 1989, when oil tanker Exxon Valdez dumped 10.8 million gallons of crude into Alaska’s Prince William Sound; in 2005 when hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in 743,700 gallons of oil spilled; in 2007 when cargo vessel Cosco Busan hit the Bay Bridge and spilled 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the San Francisco bay; and Wednesday, when a leak in a Texas oil rig spilled 58,000 gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

According to recent reports drilling is dirty. Drilling a new well fills the surrounding ocean waters with thousands of gallons of lubricant containing arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, petroleum hydrocarbons, aluminum and other heavy metals. Air pollution from a single rig is equivalent to 7,000 cars each driving 50 miles per day.

And that’s not including the spills, which are alarmingly frequent: Federal agencies reported that between 2006 and the early part of 2009 there were over 2,069 oil related incidents involved in offshore drilling.

It’s important to remember why the California coast has been free from offshore oil drilling for 40 years. The coast defines California. It’s where we relax, swim, surf, sail and fish. It’s home to thousands of species of marine wildlife that use California waters for migrating, breeding and habitation. Our coast is worth protecting, and Californians know it.

With so much money on the line oil companies will try to use the recent PPIC poll as reason to open our coast to oil drilling. But what the numbers really indicate are years of aggressive and expensive PR and lobbying efforts—more than $17 million (lobbying alone) in California since the beginning of 2005. The truth is offshore oil drilling is a risky and imperfect solution, and has no place off our coast. Californians have no intention of selling out. The oil industry can spend as much as it wants on publicity stunts to manipulate public opinion, but we aren’t fooled.

We love our coast. It must remain clean and safe.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Miami Herald Says: Keep Florida safe from offshore drilling

OUR OPINION: Protect Florida's beaches and fisheries from pollution threats

When the Florida House of Representatives this spring passed a bill to allow oil and gas drilling three miles off Florida's coast, Senate President Jeff Atwater called the measure ``dead in the water,'' and it went nowhere. This left intact no-drilling zones 125 miles off the Panhandle and 235 miles west of Tampa.

But drilling fever is spreading in Florida -- to the state's peril.

Mr. Atwater, a North Palm Beach Republican, has one more year heading the Senate. Meantime, his designated successor, Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Indialantic, plans to co-author a new drilling bill with incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park.

The new measure would allow the Florida Cabinet to issue oil leases five to six miles offshore. The motivation, the lawmakers say, is money. A Daytona Beach group of oil companies commissioned a study by Orlando economist Hank Fishkind that suggests the state could reap $2.4 billion a year from drilling. Also, two proposals in Congress would encourage cash-strapped states to increase offshore drilling by giving them a cut of the profits -- 37 percent in one bill.

Both measures are dangerously short-sighted. While drilling techniques have improved when it comes to environmental risks, pollution threats remain from transporting oil. Pipelines can leak; tankers can founder on reefs. It isn't just Florida's beaches at risk but also its fisheries.

Two rays of hope for protecting Florida are our gubernatorial candidates -- Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum and Democrat Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink. Both oppose drilling any closer.

Florida's tourism and fisheries industries deserve the utmost protection.