WASHINGTON (September 30, 2008) -- Today, the bans on offshore drilling and oil shale expire, the result of a Continuing Resolution that Congress passed last week. The moratoria include a 26-year ban on offshore drilling and a two-year moratorium on leasing land for oil shale production. Both will do nothing to advance a clean energy future for the United States, according to experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
“The lifting of the ban on drilling for oil and oil shale doesn't mean the end of the fight for clean energy, which Big Oil and its allies have exploited for their own gain,” said Frances Beinecke, President of NRDC. “We look to the next Congress and a new president to reverse course and deliver a clean, homegrown energy future.”
Allowing the ban on offshore drilling to expire lets oil companies drill as close as three miles off shore, putting our food supply, oceans and coastal economies at risk. Offshore drilling and production create huge quantities of waste that contain toxic and radioactive pollutants, which can contaminate fish and marine life. Also, between 1981 and 2005, there were 187 large oil spillsas a result of offshore drilling.
“The gains from expanded offshore drilling are minimal,” says Beinecke. “Only three percent of the world’s reserves are off our coasts, yet we consume 25 percent of the world’s oil. And offshore drilling won’t produce results for 10 years. Even then it will be a matter of cents saved; not dollars.”
Oil shale, found in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, is one of the planet’s dirtiest fuels, releasing four times as much global warming pollution as conventional fuel. Oil shale can be converted into liquid petroleum and then transportation fuel, but only after being heated to 900degrees for five years or more, so production requires massive quantities of energy. It also requires huge amounts of water, a resource already scarce in the West, with a ratio of five units of water consumed for every unit of oil shale produced. Despite the fact that commercial oil shale technology is largely untested, lifting the moratorium will open more than 2 million acres of public land – an area larger than the state of Delaware – to oil companies.