Drill, Trump, Drill!

Once again, with Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, unfortunately leading the way, unfounded environmental hysteria has greeted the proposed expansion of American energy development by President Trump, opening up formerly restricted offshore areas for exploration and drilling.

This is not to say accidents can't and won't happen.  Oil trains derail, tankers run aground, and even offshore oil platforms explode.  But more oil leaks from cars driving to Florida and in hotel and restaurant parking lots than is likely to wash up on Florida's beaches.  It doesn't make sense to worry about the occasional oily duck and ignore domestic resources while we expend blood and treasure protecting oil supplies in the Middle East.  Is the caribou worth more protection than the lives of young American soldiers?  Yet opposition by environmental zealots and misled politicians has greeted Trump's proposal:

As the Trump administration moves to vastly expand oil and gas exploration, Florida lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are vowing to stop drilling off the state's coasts.

The new five-year plan announced Thursday would give the energy industry access to nearly all of the United States' coastal waters, including areas off the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico where drilling has been blocked for decades.

The plan would pave the way for drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico after a moratorium protecting Florida's coast expires in 2022.  Leases for drilling rights haven't been available there since 1988[.] ...

Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, said he would oppose offshore drilling in Florida and plans to meet with [interior secretary Ryan] Zinke to voice his concern.

"My top priority is to ensure that Florida's natural resources are protected," said Scott, who is expected to challenge Democratic [senator] Bill Nelson this year.

Drilling technology and safety have advanced exponentially over the decades since the Exxon-Valdez and more recent Deepwater Horizon disasters.  Surely, Gov. Scott noticed that the offshore oil rigs and refineries that dot the Gulf Coast withstood their recent pummeling by multiple severe hurricanes.  We can stick our heads in the Florida sand, or we can foster energy independence and economic growth that will create the jobs, income, and energy that will allow Americans to visit those beaches.

America needs this offshore energy, unless opponents want us to return to the days of being permanent vassals of OPEC.  According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off Alaska contain an estimated 23.6 billion barrels of oil and 104.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  According to the American Petroleum Institute's website Energy Tomorrow, offshore drilling could create 840,000 American jobs and generate $200 billion in revenue to the federal government by 2035.  As the Daily Caller reports:

Offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean has the potential to produce 1.3 million barrels of oil and natural gas per day while generating nearly 280,000 jobs and contribute up to $23.5 billion per year to the U.S. economy, according to a 2013 study by the American Petroleum Institute.

And what about the environmental impact on these allegedly fragile ecosystems?  What about the polar bears and the caribou?  We heard this apocalyptic song before, when oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was built to carry it southward.  When oil exploration began in Prudhoe Bay, 60 miles to the west of ANWR, environmentalists claimed that it would yield only a "few months' supply" of oil and would wreck the ecosystem.  Prudhoe Bay turned out to be the largest deposit of oil ever found in North America.  As Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation writes in the Daily Signal:

Would oil and gas drillers kill off the eagles, caribou, and polar bears, as the White House warns?  These were the arguments made more than 40 years ago against building the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System – which carries oil from Alaska's North Slope to the port of Valdez for shipment to the lower 48 states.  Over the last 35 years it has carried more than 17 billion barrels of oil, a quantity worth nearly $1 trillion in today's dollars. At the time, the Sierra Club moaned that the pipeline would mean "the wilderness is forever broken," while the Wilderness Society said the project would lead to "imminent, grave[,] and irreparable damage to the ecology, wilderness values, natural resources, recreational potential, and total environment of Alaska."  No bird or caribou would be safe from the carnage.  Sound familiar?

Instead, the impact on Alaska's wildlife and natural beauty has been almost nonexistent.  A study delivered in 2002 to the American Society of Civil Engineers found that "the ecosystems affected by the operation of TAPS and associated activity for almost 25 years are healthy."  Today the size of the caribou herd in Alaska is estimated at about 325,000 – four times the number before the pipeline was built.

Offshore oil platforms are not the environmental risk critics say they are and are in fact an environmental bonanza, with the platforms serving as artificial reefs that promote an explosion of sea life:

"Environmentalists" wake up in the middle of the night sweating and whimpering about offshore oil platforms only because they've never seen what's under them.  This proliferation of marine life around the platforms turned on its head every "environmental expert" opinion of its day[.] ...

A study by LSU's Sea Grant college shows that 85 percent of Louisiana fishing trips involve fishing around these platforms.  The same study shows 50 times more marine life around an oil production platform than in the surrounding Gulf bottoms.

An environmental study (by apparently honest scientists) revealed that urban runoff and treated sewage dump 12 times the amount of petroleum into the Gulf [compared to] those thousands of oil production platforms.  And oil seeping naturally through the ocean floor into the Gulf, where it dissipates over time, accounts for 7 times the amount spilled by rigs and pipelines in any given year.

The irony is that offshore drilling can actually reduce the amount of oil reaching our beaches because the extraction relieves pressure that forces oil to seep from the ocean floor in quantities that vastly exceed the dangers posed by oil tankers and oil rigs, according to a 2009 report by the University of California, Santa Barbara:

Twenty years ago, the oil tanker Exxon[-]Valdez was exiting Alaska's Prince William Sound when it struck a reef in the middle of the night.  What happened next is considered one of the nation's worst environmental disasters: 10.8 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the pristine Alaskan waters, eventually covering 11,000 square miles of ocean.  Now, imagine 8 to 80 times the amount of oil spilled in the Exxon[-]Valdez accident.  According to new research, that's how much oil has made its way into sediments offshore from petroleum seeps near Coal Oil Point in the Santa Barbara Channel.

That's just from one area off southern California, another head-in the-sand state that opposes offshore drilling.  When Mother Nature is herself a major polluter, it is hard to point the finger at the alleged dangers posed by Big Oil.

Drilling in ANWR and the continental shelf, coupled with the fracking boom, will soon make the U.S. the leading petroleum-producer on the planet.  Our energy assets in both oil and liquefied natural gas will free us from dependence on vulnerable regimes and state sponsors of terror.  We can be free from energy bondage like what is suffered by those European countries dependent on Russia, that gas station masquerading as a country.  And we can tell OPEC to go and literally pound sand.

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor's Business DailyHuman EventsReason Magazine, and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications. 

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