By Sara Löwgren
In January this year, a frightening press release shook Americans from coast to coast. Trump expanding drilling in offshore waters! In fear and fury, we spoke up. In Augusta, Maine, more than a hundred people attended the public hearing and the alternative public hearing, both hosted on different floors of the civic center. We were all there: students, fishermen, lobstermen, tourism sector, residents, city planners, mothers, fathers… our worries ranged from oil spill to climate change, but our message to the ever-so-friendly representatives was clear: No drilling in Maine waters.
Is Maine off the hook? We don’t know. Much of the country is not.
In one month, leases to federal waters are once again for sale. This time, on August 15th 2018, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is selling leases to offshore Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida for oil exploration and development. The scheduled sale is the third out of 10 planned in the National Outer Continental Shelf Gas and Oil Leasing Program which, during 2017-2022, aims to sell off all federal water in the Gulf of Mexico, an area twice the size of New York State (78 million acres).
Opening such vast areas of federal water to oil drilling is another of the Trump administration’s short-sighted projects. In Implementing an America-first Energy Strategy (Executive Order 13795) on April 27th 2017, Trump ordered the United States to encourage domestic energy production, putting “the energy needs of American families and businesses first and continue implementing a plan that ensures energy security and economic vitality for decades to come” (section 1).
It doesn’t take much to realize how flawed the strategy is. Which American families benefit from offshore drilling? Energy security and economic vitality are uncertain predictions (and how secure is a finite energy resource, anyway?), but the scientific evidence is overwhelming that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming. Is offshore drilling meant to benefit the upper class, allowing them to drive their private cars for a few cents less per mile? Is it meant to benefit the thousands of households–many marginalized–who already struggle through worsening horrors of sea level rise, frequent storms, droughts, and floods? Families who cannot afford food if a drought year causes prices to fluctuate?
The executive order talks about maintaining American energy leadership. Drilling for offshore oil is more than one step backwards. Across the globe, countries are transitioning toward renewable energy, some driven by governments and some by people. In the United States, governors, experts, and residents on the East and West coast oppose offshore drilling; yet, Trump continues to slash federal marine protection. Offshore drilling may have quieted down in general media, but we must not be silenced.
Keep resisting fossil fuels. Keep struggling for a just energy transition.
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The New York Times also offers some helpful graphics.
picture by Arbyred on flickr.com