A few thoughts on drilling for oil

There’s a curious thing about California residents–many of us have opinions ranging across the board about major issues. Indeed, many parts of the state are in direct opposition to each other. The coast is different from the inland zones, and the south is different from the North. It’s part of what makes this such an entertaining state to live in.

There’s one cause, however, that most of us find common ground in: off shore oil drilling. You might see more “no off shore drilling” stickers in liberal communities, but the fact is that most of the state is against off shore drilling, for a variety of reasons.

The first and most important, to me, is the environmental effects. Northern California has one of the most productive, varied, amazing marine ecosystems in the world, and it would be severely damaged by the extraction of oil. While companies have been pushed to develop more environmentally sound methods, drilling cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called good for the environment.

Secondly is the fact that drilling would heavily impact our tourism industry. Many people visit the golden state for our breathtaking ocean views–views that would not be very impressive with massive oil derricks scattered across the skyline and sheen of spilled oil oozing across the surface of the ocean.

Thirdly, and perhaps most important to the yuppies: offshore drilling is ugly.

Some people argue that opening our pristine coastline to offshore drilling would improve our economy. I disagree. Although we may not have a fishing industry to be impacted anymore, we do have tourism, and tourism is big. Although I loathe the industry, I am well aware that it is currently what sustains towns like Fort Bragg. Offshore drilling would be the death blow to our local economy.

So you can imagine that I read a report in the Chronicle about a proposed off shore drilling bill, which ended up passing by a disturbing margin, with horror. The proposal wants to open up drilling in the Gulf (remember the dead zone? It’s about to get bigger…and deader.) This distressing enough, but it’s clear that Congress wants to use the bill as a precedent to open up drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, areas protected by federal mandate since the 1970s.

It’s also clear that the bill will probably go through, not least because all you car drivers are upset about the price of gas, and many people are under the impression that fouling our environment even further with drilling will lower the price of gas. Newsflash: most of the natural gas and oil resources we currently extract are exported to nations like Japan. Japan will get our oil, and we will continue to rely heavily on Middle Eastern oil.

The House and Senate seem rather united on this one–both are working on bills to open up the coasts to drilling on a state by state basis, “offering generous incentives” to states that allow corporations to come in and destroy their marine environments.

Luckily, there are a few figures in government, like the California Governer and a variety of Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, who oppose drilling, or at very least aren’t happy with the bills as written now. California lawmakers aren’t happy with the proposed legislation because it certainly doesn’t offer us any additional protections from drilling–indeed, part of the proposal includes ending state control ten miles out to sea, meaning that even if California as a state opposed drilling, platforms could still be put in place off our shores. Platforms which would affect our environment, economy, and industry. And, presumably, since the platforms would be put up without our cooperation, we wouldn’t see any of the money. Caught between a rock and a hard place, many Californians might agree to offshore drilling “if it’s going to happen anyway.”

This is a huge tragedy in the making.

But let me express this visually. If off shore drilling off the coast of California became a reality, this view would never be the same again:

ocean view

When you walked on Big River and looked out to sea, you wouldn’t see this:

big river beach

And when you rounded the curves of highway one coming home and the road opened out to the ocean, you wouldn’t see this anymore either:

elk coast

These examples represent only a fraction of the beauty that would be destroyed by off shore drilling. Imagine a coast line mutated with the ugly bumps of oil derricks off shore. Or don’t, please, and help put a stop to the very idea.

I know this is a topic I harp on a lot, and perhaps it’s because this is a big issue: we must find alternative energy sources. We must promote green, renewable energy. We cannot continue consuming oil and coal at ever mounting rates. If you drive a car, stop. If you can’t stop, carpool. Ride a bicycle. Walk. Plan your trips intelligently. Get a more fuel-efficient vehicle. We must break our reliance on outmoded sources of power. And tell your government representatives that you are not supportive of the proposal to devastate marine environments on both coasts, or the Gulf. Make sure that your elected officials know that sustainable energy is a deal breaker for you.

And it’s not just a deal breaker for you, it’s one for the environment, too. There are clear signs that the Earth is beginning to suffer from the escalating systemic abuse we have inflicted. How much longer can this go on? Something is going to give here.

[off shore drilling]