Dealing with our dependence on oil

Without a doubt, burgeoning gas prices are affecting nearly everyone in this country. Though, ideally, we should all be traveling around in hydro-powered vehicles and having electricity for our homes supplied by wind- and solar-powered generators, we are still so very far away from achieving this ideal. Complain as we may about our current situation, the average person is limited in his or her ability to change the fuel of American society. Unfortunately, with our hands tied, we need to figure out a temporary fix to our long-term problem.

Last week, the Senate rejected a transportation and energy bill, proposed by GOP leaders and passed by legislators in the House of Representatives, which would have pushed forward the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline project, delayed tougher air pollution standards for industrial boilers and expanded offshore oil drilling. Those in support of the bill boiled it down to two things: creating jobs and lowering gas prices; those in opposition said benefits were exaggerated coupled with known and unknown costs to the environment.

Though there is much to be said about Keystone XL and air pollution standards, it’s time to revisit conversations about offshore drilling. While the “drill, baby, drill” perspective is careless in its casualness, environmentalists and pro-business advocates must come together and decide how to reasonably meet America’s energy demands without wreaking more havoc on the environment but still gain control of our energy needs.

When it comes to offshore oil drilling, it’s commonplace to refer back to the damage done by offshore drilling from the 1969 Santa Barbara and the 2010 Gulf of Mexico BP oil spills. In light of these environmental disasters, the obvious response to any new drilling is, “No way.” Playing the devil’s advocate, however, it’s been 42 years since the Santa Barbara spill and the 2010 spill occurred in much deeper waters, where the pressure differentials were higher. Also, there are 27 active oil platforms in California while there are more than 4,500 in the Gulf. If new leases, or expanded leases, were permitted off California’s coast, Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Oil Association, said that the current platforms could just directionally drill farther out than the current parameters of their leases rather than building new platforms, which would likely be met with much pushback from coastal residents and eco-friendly politicians.

Furthermore, a tidbit of misinformation must be corrected. A recent opinion piece by Alan Sanders of the Ormond Beach Observers published in a local news outlet stated that California’s offshore crude oil is unsuited for gasoline production. Zierman, who represents small- and middle-sized crude oil drilling companies in California, and a representative from local offshore oil company Venoco Inc. said that crude oil pumped from California’s platforms does go to be refined into gasoline, jet fuel, etc. To say that offshore oil drilling would have no effect on gas prices is erroneous.

Sensitivity about the issue remains at an all-time high for many who experienced the damage done by offshore drilling, but the cost of not having an adequate supply of our own oil is wreaking its own havoc, from the burden of high gas prices and the overall effect on our economy to wars being waged overseas and lives unnecessarily lost. It is obvious that there are no real winners with dependency on oil in general, but we aren’t going to leapfrog into the near future without it. We have two options: 1.) continue to search for resources outside of our country, or 2.) start getting serious about where we are with our own energy needs and figure out the best way to become independent. Neither of them is ideal, but we can’t continue to deny the looming crisis of our dependence on foreign oil.