October 14, 2008
By Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
When it comes to energy, we're supposed to pick between a clean
environment and affordable fuel. But what if we could have
Fortunately, it's possible to produce more domestic oil while
also keeping our planet livable. The key to doing so begins off the
California coast, near Santa Barbara.
It was there that the modern push for a clean environment began
almost 40 years ago. An accident on an off-shore oil platform
spilled some 100,000 barrels of oil. In response, environmentalists
created Earth Day, and lawmakers passed the first of many laws
preventing deep-sea drilling.
But the bans haven't prevented oil from washing up on shore. And
they never will. Oil was polluting the Santa Barbara area long
before humans understood how important the fuel was. As long ago as
1792, explorer George Vancouver sailed up what's now the California
coast and wrote about the oil in the water he passed through.
This past summer Dr. Bruce Luyendyk, a professor of marine
geophysics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, told a
town hall meeting that most of that oil is caused by seepage, not
by humans. It's oil that leaks out of the ocean floor through tiny
He's done extensive studies off Coal Oil Point near UCSB, and
found that such seepage pours about 4,200 gallons of oil into the
ocean each day. Luyendyk notes that over a decade, twice as much
oil seeps out of the ocean floor naturally as was spilled in 1989
when the Exxon Valdez ran aground.
Natural gas is bubbling out of the ocean floor as well, making
its way into the atmosphere where it may increase global warming
without ever being burned by humans. Luyendyk says approximately 3
million cubic feet a day of natural gas are being wasted. An
average house uses about 250 cubic feet of gas a day.
But here's where humans have an opportunity to improve the
environment while generating more domestic oil. Physicist Bruce
Allen belongs to the environmental group SOS California
(soscalifornia.org). He says drilling for oil would reduce pressure
and cut down on seepage.
Lawmakers should lift their ban on off-shore drilling, a ban
that prevents exploration in about 85 percent of our coastal
waters. That would bring more American oil to market and reduce
prices. It also could ease seepage and thus reduce pollution.
Unfortunately, even if Congress acts, hard-core
environmentalists will, too. They're already going to great lengths
to block any new drilling.
Every single oil lease granted by the federal government in
recent years is being held up by frivolous lawsuits that could
prevent any extraction for the next several years.Any potential new
leases, whether on- or off-shore, surely will be held up in court,
That's why lawmakers in Washington should do more than simply
pass a bill to permit drilling. They should set a reasonable limit
on the length of time that lawsuits can delay exploration.
Something between 180-360 days for full adjudication should
allow us to maintain legal protections without allowing
environmentalists to use the courts to thwart the will of the
people. Also, all lawsuits against a drilling site should be
combined and heard in the D.C. circuit, so lawyers can't pick their
circuits on a case-by-case basis.
Americans can have the best of both worlds: more domestic oil
and a clean planet. We just need to do what we're good at: explore
and produce -- industriously and carefully.
Feulner, is the President of The Heritage
First Apppeared in Indianapolis Star
When it comes to energy, we're supposed to pick between a clean environment and affordable fuel. But what if we could have both?
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
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