Domestic drilling damaging
By Fred Lambert / email@example.com
March 15, 2012
Filed under Opinion
The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a short-lived tragedy in the hearts and minds of Americans. In only two short years the mess has become a backwater issue. Americans are more concerned with the present, specifically with getting the economy robust again.
In that sense, offshore drilling and Canadian pipelines make sense. But some argue that offshore drilling in particular may not provide the relief to gas prices that Americans think it will.
In an article published in the Scientific American, Emily Getz reported that the MMS (Minerals Management Service, a part of the Department of the Interior) estimates 18 billion barrels of oil in the untapped coastal reserves, compared to the 10 billion known of and 86 billion more figured to be in Alaskan, Gulf of Mexico and southern Californian wells already being pulled from. Calculated with the 7.6 billion barrels of oil the US consumes in one year alone, the off-limit areas that are up for debate can provide only a few years of reprieve and probably little improvement in the price per gallon. And that’s just assuming that it is all extracted without incidents like the one that struck the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
But despite the effective recovery from the BP oil spill, the damage done should have been a warning about the dangers unfettered drilling in thousands of feet of water present.
According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Coast Guard commandant, Admiral R.J. Papp, about 4.9 billion barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico by July 2010, 19 times that of the Exxon-Valdez spill of 1989.
According to Popular Mechanics magazine, this is equivalent to almost 206 million gallons, an amount that contaminated some 665 miles of coastline.
Aside from this glaring tragedy on offshore drilling’s track-list, the general effects of burned fossil fuels on the environment is a threat that is well-documented. Besides oil spills, fossil fuel consumption is also a direct cause of acid rain, global warming and deteriorating air quality, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. They also point out that levels of carbon dioxide, a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere, have risen 25 percent in the last 150 years.
While some debate the severity of global warming, a majority of scientists agree that it is adversely affecting the earth. And even if the planet isn’t warming at extreme rates, there is still the pitfall of air pollution.
“It’s all ferns and dinosaurs,” said activist Bill McKibben on the Colbert Report, after host Stephen Colbert challenged his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline with the question, “All of that oil is 100 percent certified organic, is it not?”
“The trouble is we’re taking 200 million years of it, and putting it into the atmosphere at once,” McKibben said.
Lung cancer is the top killer among cancers in the world, according to the Center for Disease Control, with almost 160,000 fatalities in America in 2007. The exhaust emissions from burned fossil fuels like diesel are known carcinogens.
Additionally, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences funded a study at the University of California which found that lengthy exposure to vehicular pollutants and fossil fuel emissions could “hinder lung development and limit breathing capacity for a lifetime.”
And while many Americans are skeptical (or willingly complacent) about the damage global warming is actually causing or the rate at which respiratory disease is increasing, the well-being of future generations should not be disregarded.
Green technologies seem distant, but they hold the best bet for a future on this planet. Many of them, including wind, electric and solar are viable in many forms already; it’s just a matter of rallying behind them and driving forward, rather than advancing an unsustainable system because it’s the easiest option in the present.
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