Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 6:33 am | Fair 49º


Commentary: Don’t Be Duped by Big Oil & Friends

SB CAN's Deborah Brasket says there's no shortage of myths surrounding the calls for offshore oil drilling.

Lately, everyone from President Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain to local groups like SOS California and the Committee to Improve North County has been talking about the need to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling. They claim that lifting the ban will relieve pain at the pump, beef up reserves, and stop natural oil seepage.

Don’t believe it. As one pundit put it, this is just Big Oil & Friends’ version of a new kind of WMD scare: “wells of mass deception.” Don’t believe the myths they are peddling about offshore oil drilling.

Myth No. 1 — Lifting the ban will lower prices at the pump now

This simply isn’t true. A report by the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration states “access to the Pacific, Atlantic and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017.” Even by 2030, according to EIA, we would see only a 3 percent increase in domestic oil production, only a 0.2 percent increase of world production. This would be too small to have any significant effect on the price of oil or gasoline, says the EIA.

Myth No. 2 — Improved technology eliminates worry about new offshore oil spills

The claim is “not a drop of oil” was spilled offshore during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Facts prove otherwise. According to the Minerals Management Service, offshore producers released an average of 6,555 barrels of oil a year from 1998 to 2007, a 64 percent increase over the previous 10-year period. In addition, MMS reports that Katrina and Hurricane Rita about a month later caused 124 offshore spills, dumping a total of 743,700 gallons into the Gulf of Mexico. While technology has improved, “oil is a dirty business,” as one oilman acknowledged. Natural disasters, human error and corporate neglect (think Greka Energy Corp.), can and do offset any improvements in technology.

Myth No. 3 — Offshore oil drilling will reduce natural oil seepage

SOS California, which has received funding from Venoco Inc., insists that offshore drilling will reduce the natural oil seepage that is harmful to the environment. The evidence is to the contrary, however. Drilling could actually increase seepage by increasing pressure via the injection of water and gas, according to a Venoco Environmental Impact Report. It’s also worth noting that the seepage SOS is so worried about comes from only one offshore field: the Ellwood field owned by Venoco.

Offshore oil drilling is not the panacea touted by Big Oil & Friends, but yet another ploy to boost profits for oil companies, prolong our dependence on oil, and delay the development of renewable energy. For example, ExxonMobil earned a record profit of $11.7 billion last quarter alone, and most of that went to buy back stocks to boost profits rather than for oil exploration or development of renewable fuels. Clearly the oil industry’s interest in drilling offshore has more to do with increasing profits than solving the energy crisis.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will be discussing the energy crisis Aug. 26 in the Santa Maria Government Center. Join SB CAN in making it clear that we don’t buy into Big Oil & Friends’ new WMD scare. We won’t sacrifice our shorelines and wildlife to feed their greed. The way to energy independence and relief at the gas pump is to conserve fuel, expand mass transit, and develop renewable energy as quickly as possible.

Deborah Brasket is executive director of the Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN). She can be reached at 805.722.5094 or at [email protected] This commentary originally appeared in the Santa Maria Times.

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