The Enemy to Off-Shore Drilling?

The Enemy to Off-Shore Drilling?



Today at the Offshore Technology Conference (which I am at on sponsorship by the American Petroleum Institute), I attended a panel discussion titled: The Case for Access to Oil and Gas Resources on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. As the title and graphic to my post probably reveal, the panel was less reasonable than the one I attended yesterday.

Let me say, first of all, I support exploration of the outer continental shelf. It’s been nearly 30 years since anyone has done oil and gas surveying and we need to know how much hydrocarbons are recoverable in the waters off our Eastern and Western seaboards. Exploration should be a no-brainer — we’re going to need oil and gas for many years to come, no matter how fast we ramp up renewable energy sources.

All that said, I was put-off by the anti-environmentalist (as distinct from anti-environmental) attitude of the panel. There seemed to be a general perception that if the environmentalists just got out of the way, the oil and gas companies would take care of things in the best possible way. The situation devolved to a point where one member of the audience accused characters like Dora the Explorer of “indoctrinating” our youth — and no one on the panel seemed to disagree.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no reasonable link between teaching children to conserve and recycle (as Dora does) and the issues surrounding OCS exploration and drilling. The panelists consistently said we need to find common ground, and yet they often had no problem lumping positive environmentalism with the kind of short-sighted, anti-oil crusades being waged by some of the less intellectually honest members of the left. You can’t say you want engagement on the issue (as these industry leaders say they want) and then act like Dora the Explorer is some leftist plot to ruin our future.

I know those on the panel and in the audience were just voicing their frustrations in a closed environment. In the real world, I imagine they are more willing to interact with their Green counterparts. However, I don’t think progress can be achieved so long as oil and gas interests see themselves as some kind of victim. Yes, we need to explore and drill in areas previously off limits. We have the clean technology and high-end machinery capable of making such efforts efficient and of minimal impact to the environment. But if the oil and gas industry wants to convince the majority of Americans of this necessity, they need to be able to separate positive environmentalism with ill-informed obstructionism.

There should be a common ground solution to our future energy needs. But both sides need to move away from demonization.

  • TerenceC

    Great post Alan! I have never understood the O&NG interests point of view regarding our national energy policies (which don’t really exist), nor have I really understood the policies of those allied against them. If you agree with the O&NG people then you’re classed as a right wing nut case. Anyone who organizes against O&NG interests is classed as flaming liberal who undermines out national security.

    The reality is always somewhere in the middle of course. A national energy policy that creates an energy independent USA while allowing for the protection of the environment with the correct level of conservation is certainly a policy worth implementing. I have often wondered what the results would have been today if we had actually continued on the path President Carter set us on over 30 years ago? I can imagine that 30 years of conservation, government subsidized renewable programs, and increased funding for R&D at all levels would have given us a very different USA than the one we live in now.

  • kranky kritter

    I support the middle ground on this too Alan. It’s too bad when some folks on the right can’t do any better than complain that a cartoon character is part of a conspiracy. It’s indisputable that we are going to need change sooner or later, and no time like the present. Oil execs can do way better than suggesting that if we all just get out of the way, they’ll gush oil for us.

    Now is a good time to put resources towards determining how far we can go with alternative approaches. I strongly agree with you that a centerpiece (only one of them, folks!!) must be the acknowledgment that fossil fuels are going to continue to be a big part of the picture for the foreseeable future.

    I am also 100% on board with trying to diminish their role for several obvious reasons I won’t bother listing here. Any effort to diminish fossil fuel use really must speak to economics and international competition. And most important, and assessment of the virtues of any alternative energy source must count everything. None of the alternatives is anything like a panacea. It’s going to be hard work, and we need to be open, honest, and upfront about all the costs benefits, limitations, and side affects of various approaches.

    In other words, decisions need to be based just as much (or even more!!) in numbers and science than ideology, especially dreamy idealism. I could never stomach “failure is not an option” when it was sported by pro-Iraq war conservatives, and I can’t stomach it now by the dreamiest greens.

    Viability is not simply a function of what we wish we could have. It’s a function of hard facts, data, work, the limitations that the real world places on us depending on what we have been able to figure out how to do so far, and our creative ability to overcome or work around those limitations.