The Obama Administration is reportedly planning to approve oil and gas exploration off of America’s East Coast, including the possible leasing bottom off of Virginia’s coast as soon as two years from now, according to news reports this morning.
Offshore drilling off the Chesapeake and along the East Coast has long been banned by the federal government, and for good reasons. The potential for oil and chemical spills and environmental catastrophe is too great for a region that is ecologically on life support, and economically dependent on beaches, tourism and seafood.
In 2008, the Bush Administration lifted the executive branch’s prohibition on drilling along this coast. And then the U.S. House and Senate decided not to renew a Congressional ban that had been in place for more than 20 years.
Now the Obama Administration is looking to push ahead with this bad idea as part of a broader energy strategy that includes increasing the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks.
This makes no sense. America needs to break its addiction to oil. And you don’t break an addiction by increasing your supply. To make an analogy, if America had an alcohol problem, you wouldn’t solve the problem by hunting around for liquor stores where you could buy more and cheaper vodka.
Boosting the fuel efficiency of vehicles is a necessary step. But this effort to convince people to conserve fuel will be undermined if we simultaneously pillage our shorelines and foul our natural landscapes in a desperate scramble to make gas cheaper. The cheaper the gas, the less people care about fuel efficiency.
In a global sense, programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will never go anywhere if our country’s energy strategy is to exploit every last ounce of fossil fuel before we move on to cleaner power sources, such as wind and solar. Let’s start moving in this direction now.
More locally, what about the Chesapeake Bay? It would be hypocritical for President Obama to pledge a stronger federal effort to clean up the nation’s largest estuary (as he did last May) and at the same time open the gates for a giant pollution source at the entrance to the Bay.
Drilling would punch a huge hole in the Obama Administration’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan. And drilling would leave beautiful and fragile coastlines, such as those along Virginia Beach and Assateague Island, vulnerable to a future as black as oil.
By Tom Pelton
(Photo from U.S. Department of the Interior)