Dear President Bush: No More Offshore Drilling

Earlier today, President Bush called upon Congress to lift a ban on offshore oil drilling that was enacted more than 25 years ago. Since then, every President has extended the moratorium – first by President Bush’s father, in 1990, and then by President Clinton, in 1998.

They extended the ban for good reason. Offshore drilling is an enormously wasteful and dangerous means of energy production. Between 1980 and 1999, 73 offshore oil spills dumped millions of gallons of oil into our waters. Offshore drilling is associated with air pollution and land degradation, and with seismic activity that has been shown to have profound, even fatal, effects on marine mammals.

Nor will it do anything to reduce the price of gas or increase our energy independence, as my colleague Deron Lovaas said today. According to most estimates, it will take at least seven to ten years for the oil to go into production and even then it wouldn’t reduce energy prices.

And so what is this about? With oil hitting $130 a barrel, these are desperate times for the White House. For a former oil-man from Texas, the solution to an oil crisis means helping the oil industry, not the American public. As Ross Gelbspan said in his book Boiling Point, “Today, the White House has become the East Coast branch office of ExxonMobil and Peabody coal, and climate change has become the preeminent case study of the contamination of our political system by money.”

So let’s recognize President’s call to Congress for what it is: a political play for short-term gain that will do little to reduce gas prices over the short or the long-term. What this country needs is a plan to reduce our energy consumption. It doesn’t need another desperate move to help the oil industry.

NRDC has a plan. Solving the energy crisis should begin with energy efficiency. We need to improve the energy efficiency of our vehicles, our businesses and our homes. The cheapest, cleanest and quickest energy we can produce is the energy we save through efficiency.

In the short-term, energy efficiency can be achieved much more quickly than drilling for oil. In the long-term, it can reduce consumption, ease demand, and help to lower the price of fuel.

To get there:

  • We need to put a cap on carbon. The science is in; we can’t continue emitting at current rates.
  • We need to unleash the potential of current, available technology by getting it off the shelves and into the streets.
  • Third, and related to the issue of efficiency, is the need increase our investment in technology innovation. We need to work towards creating a low-carbon infrastructure in the US.

We have the opportunity to set this country in a new direction. That direction is based upon an energy policy that will solve global warming, enhance national security, and boost our economy. Energy efficiency has a leading role to play in that future; opening our oceans and our coasts to drilling does not.