Seeing the Big Picture
Sticking Our Heads in the Sand about Offshore Drilling
On June 11, 2012, I attended the press conference hosted by Senator Graham, Congressmen Duncan and Wilson, and Governor Haley. The pre-event press release said it was about energy independence . . . it turns out that it was about the LEAST effective and realistic way to achieve true energy independence for our state and our nation: offshore drilling.
Geologists and oil companies have surveyed, mapped and assessed the United States’ oil fields for decades. The bottom line has really not changed: we possess about 3-4% of the world's oil, and we use 25%. These two numbers are irreconcilable in terms of energy independence. We can NEVER produce the amount of oil we need. The estimate reserves off our coast amount to fifteen days of oil. In other words, they are INSIGNIFICANT and would not make a dent in the national need for oil.
The other questionable assertion espoused by our officials is that this oil is somehow OURS and would come to American markets. Nothing is farther from the truth. Oil is a globally traded commodity. Oil companies who recover the oil send it to refineries where it then goes into the global pot for sale. We must compete with China, India, Brazil and other emerging economies who are consuming more and more every day.
Oil is a finite substance. The vast majority of easy, cheap oil has been tapped already. What is happening now is that much dirtier, harder to produce, harder to refine and more costly kinds of oil, such as tar sands oils, are becoming the next generation of oil production. Eventually, this oil will become much more expensive. The price of oil will continue to rise as sources dry up and world demand increases.
For us to continue to hitch our future wagon to more oil is insanity. We should be moving as quickly as possible to alternative forms of transportation, if for no other reason than to leave the remaining oil to be used for more important products like medicines, plastics, fertilizers, and other petroleum products where oil cannot easily be substituted (but of course can and eventually will need to be).
To return to the ideas promoted during the press conference, in the process of offshore drilling and tar sands refining, we are putting the environment and our lives at risk. As we saw from the Gulf Oil spill, whole economies can be destroyed and be unable to recover. Poisons and toxins are introduced into the food chain that we have no idea about their long term impacts. And the burning of fossil fuels is undeniably changing the atmosphere and the climate.
Our politicians are following in the footsteps of our other Southern ancestors who fought (figuratively and literally) to keep us chained to bad practices. They are attempting to justify putting our eggs in the ridiculous and untenable energy resource basket of offshore oil and completely ignoring the tremendous offshore wind, solar, biomass and other truly homegrown resources that we possess. They want us to believe that offshore oil would somehow make us energy independent. This is an outright lie.
We should be calling for our leaders to abandon these 19th-20th technologies and demanding we move into the 21st century of clean, affordable and easily accessible technologies of high powered energy efficiency and renewable. To do anything else is keeping South Carolina chained in the dark to the old ways, much like we have done throughout our history.