Opinion

Opening of off-shore areas for oil exploration is misguided

Recent calls for the opening of our off-shore areas for oil exploration are misguided, irresponsible and even unpatriotic. The most obvious reason is that the very act of increasing our dependency on more drilling whether offshore or inland simply serves to continue our dependency on a finite, greenhouse gas producing commodity that harms the environment and further distracts from the pursuit of any new, innovative alternatives that would strengthen true sustainability, energy security and independence. More drilling represents an illogical and regressive approach to one of the most profound problems we, as a global society, now face.

Surprisingly, proponents of opening offshore areas do not seem to grasp that continuing our dependency on fossil fuels is analogous to 'offering' a drug addict even more contraband, instead of working to wean away from the source of addiction. Our national focus should be to increase efforts to progress a diversified portfolio of sustainable alternatives, including wind, solar, tidal, hydrogen-based and even nuclear energies. Logic would dictate that the emerging realization and the pressure of higher petrol prices would be a catalyst to immediately seek out more sustainable, environmentally-friendly sources of energy.

If Congress did allow increased benthic oil bed exploration off Alaska, California or Florida, they would only further delay any reduction of green-house gas levels and reduce the incentive to develop fossil-fuel free alternative transportation methods. Moreover, such a decision would effectively continue our dependence on a finite, non-renewable resource that has proven to be physiologically and environmentally damaging. Ironically, these are precisely the reasons why our enemies would like to see us continue to remain dependent on petroleum products overall. Domestic energy independence and security will never be made possible by increased exploration within our borders. Sadly, many conservatives who push for drilling are doing exactly what these terrorists hope we will do.

Accordingly, the only truly 'patriotic' solution is to aggressively focus our efforts on developing new forms of non-fossil based energy.

Even the most radical conservative acknowledges the premise that 'necessity is the mother of invention;' when one 'waters down' necessity by falsely claiming that 'increased domestic production will solve our problem,' the net result is that regulators and investors become less likely to support, or promote, the development of alternatives. Rising gas prices have inspired the initial production of many alternative fuel vehicles, like the Aptera, the Clarity, the REVA or even the high-end Tesla Roadster. Many of these vehicles are already on the cusp of broad commercial distribution, a fact accelerated only due to the growing demand as the cost of fuel rises.

In the coming years, rapidly advancing countries like China and India will compete more aggressively with the United States for remaining petroleum supplies, nationally and internationally (we should be realistic despite the notion of 'patriotism,' even American corporations will sell any domestically procured oil to the highest international bidder). If the U.S. continues to depend on petroleum to provide energy during the time when world energy consumption increases, our nation will slip into an even more devastating cycle of decreasing supply and geometrically-increasing prices. The only way to avoid that economically disastrous cycle is to diversify our energy production portfolios aggressively and immediately.

If promises of additional oil reserves from the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge hold true, drilling might yield anywhere between 5.7 and 16-billion barrels, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. For a country that uses an estimated 20-million barrels of oil daily, the benefit of these reserves, even assuming the highest return, would only last for two and a half years. Additionally, if the ANWR does increase the available marketable oil, it makes natural sense that Eastern oil producing countries will only decrease their own production of petroleum, in order to keep demand (and their per-barrel profits) high and also strategically preserving their own in-ground supplies for the time when U.S. supplies diminish. At that point, our country will be in an even greater energy crisis than we currently face.

Clearly, accelerated drilling in the Arctic (or anywhere else domestically, for that matter) makes absolutely no real, long-term sense. Instead we must accelerate our development of alternative energy resources.

There is no doubt that increased petrol and diesel prices are having a growingly negative impact on consumers and businesses. But rather than seeking to continue delaying the discovery of a permanent solution to this problem, we should see these increased costs as a catalyst for immediate change in how we consume energy; consolidating non-essential car travel, seeking tele-commuting and car-pooling opportunities while providing the political support to those who would make seeking alternative energy a national priority. Congress needs to provide more bipartisan incentives and write policies that reward private industries for manufacturing and marketing alternative energy vehicles. Simultaneously, Congress should aggressively support initiatives that accelerate research and development of solar, tidal, wind and nuclear power development and distribution systems, while rejecting any continued call to remain fixated on the regressive fossil fuel industries of the past.

It is somewhat comforting that those of us who value the integrity of our environment have allies in the Democratically-controlled Senate and Congress; and following Barack Obama's inevitable success this November, there does seem to be an indication that future policy decisions in Washington D.C. will be made in a more responsible, forward-thinking fashion. As energy consumers and voters, we can facilitate this effort by supporting sustainable energy pursuits, while practicing energy conservation and supporting the political candidates who show the initiative to eagerly pursue alternative energy strategies.

It's time to pursue real solutions to our emerging energy crisis. Anything less would simply be irresponsible.

Editors' Note: Michael Kundu of Lake Stevens, WA is a freelance environmental journalist and activist who has held executive leadership roles with groups like the Sierra Club, the Sea Shepherd Society, Project SeaWolf, and other international groups. He currently works for the United States government and holds an elected position on the Marysville School Board.

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