Monday, November 12 , 2018, 10:16 am | Smoke 68º


Commentary: Setting the Record Straight on Oil Drilling Off Coast

A change in Santa Barbara County’s policy should be based on fact, not hysteria and conjecture.

Last week, a Legislative Resolution I authored to oppose offshore oil drilling passed the California State Assembly. We must fight to keep the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling intact so as not to jeopardize our coastline, tourism and fishing industries. That’s why I am concerned about an action scheduled before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on whether to change a long-standing policy regarding offshore oil drilling. The county staff report goes so far as to submit a proposed letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asking for a change in policy. The governor already has expressed his opposition to offshore oil drilling. One has to ask why the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is even considering such a request.

The Santa Barbara County staff letter makes assertions about offshore oil drilling that are factually inaccurate and therefore misleading. Some examples:

False: The letter claims that because of improved technology, “there have been no significant spills in offshore production in the almost forty years since the [Santa Barbara oil] spill.”

Truth: Of the 40 offshore oil spills exceeding 42,000 gallons since 1964, 13 have occurred within the past 10 years. According to conservative estimates from the U.S. Mineral Management Service, during Hurricane Katrina 470,000 gallons of oil from 70 separate wells polluted the ocean and during Hurricane Rita more than 1 million gallons were spilled from offshore rigs from 54 separate spills. Drilling in the ocean always carries with it the risk of a catastrophe.

False: The letter says that oil “extraction reduces pressure that causes seeps to occur, thereby reducing the amount of oil and gas that is introduced in the water and air.”

Truth: This misstatement is based on assertions from a pro-drilling group that receives contributions from the oil industry called “Stop Oil Seeps” or SOS. SOS bases its claims on a 1999 study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. One of the authors of the study, Bruce Luyendyk, recently told the Wall Street Journal that the group is “extrapolating these results in ways that are not justified.”

False: Another and perhaps the most egregious falsehood in the letter is that “an indication that we are pursuing increased oil extraction would immediately have a depressing effect on the international price of oil, to the benefit of our country.”

Truth: This assertion lacks any merit or factual basis. We have seen the price of oil drop in recent months for a variety of reasons, none of which are the result of calls by the Bush administration to lift the offshore moratorium. Santa Barbara County’s willingness to put our coastal environment at risk will not lower prices. Santa Barbara’s onshore and offshore oil production totals about 3.2 million barrels a year.  That represents one one-hundredth of 1 percent of world oil production. Anticipation about an increase in Santa Barbara’s oil production, even a substantial increase, would be miniscule compared with the precipitous drop we have seen in oil prices resulting from decreased oil and gas demand in the past month and a half ($21 per barrel since July 11).

Even if additional oil drilling were allowed in the Santa Barbara Channel, there is no guarantee that oil would remain in this country. It would be sold to the highest bidder, such as China or India. Oil-producing states such as Alaska and Texas have not seen a drop in price at the pump. Despite being the second-largest oil producing state in the nation, Alaska pays the highest gasoline prices per gallon in the country, and in Texas, the largest oil-producing state, prices are about $4 per gallon.

Making such a significant change in our county’s policy regarding offshore oil drilling should at least be based on accuracy and fact, not hysteria and conjecture.

Promoting increased offshore oil drilling will require additional oversight and environmental protection by Santa Barbara County. We only need to look at how the county has managed on-shore oil drilling by Greka to ask ourselves why we should believe that the public will be protected from the hazards of offshore oil drilling.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, represents the 35th District.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >