BY ROBERT DELLINGER
“We have ended the war on American energy,” President Trump stated in his most recent State of the Union address. Seven years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster coated the Gulf of Mexico in oil, the Trump administration plans to legalize offshore drilling on most of the U.S. coastline.
The proposed five year plan will allow oil companies to drill in 47 areas of America’s public coastlines, which will be the first major offshore drilling expansion proposed since 1984. Essentially, our oceans and coasts are being auctioned off by the GOP-backed Trump administration, as they erase the 2010 policies put into place following the worst oil spill in U.S. history. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the Deepwater Horizon Spill caused more than $8.8 billion in damages to natural resources alone.
Let this be an example of what is to come if this drilling legislation becomes law.
As enticing as cheap gas prices may be, saving a few extra dollars does not offset the immense impact of emissions on our environment and its people. Oceans provide the world with vital sources of protein, minerals, and other products necessary for life. Ocean systems create over half of the oxygen we breathe, drive weather systems, produce the natural flow of energy and nutrients around the world, and keep the Earth habitable. It is imperative that we remember the ocean’s immense role in our ecosystem before we make plans to exploit and abuse our waters.
Trump is using the lessons he learned as a businessman and applying them to our Earth. The irreversible damage he could inflict through these policy changes will have generational effects. Our nation’s oceans and shores are crucial economic, recreational, and ecological treasures that would be disastrously polluted by an increase in offshore oil and gas drilling.
Opposition to the plan came immediately from governors in coastal states. The Republican Governor of Maine, Paul LePage is the only Atlantic or Pacific state governor in favor of oil production off their state’s coast. Due to the international influence of American policy—especially regarding environmental issues—our nation’s actions could catalyze environmental fallout on a global scale.
Other than the immediate effects of the policy within the U.S., executive orders such as these are causing tensions within the international realm of geopolitics. As technology propels the oil industry forward, geopolitical difficulties arise in direct retaliation. For example, many countries share overlapping maritime boundaries. Israel and Lebanon have many disputed claims in oil off the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Despite the NAFTA agreement in 1993, the United States and Mexico are still disputing over drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico. In the South China Sea, disputes continue as China—with its rising need for energy—battles neighboring countries over drilling rights and sovereignty claims. Should the drilling industry venture into coastal waters, additional political complications will arise.
It makes both ecological and economic sense to continue to protect the ocean and coastal environment. More offshore oil rigs will increase the probability of oil spills, which require costly clean up efforts and have the potential to completely destroy oceanic environments. Moreover, the seismic noises from the rigs are likely to disrupt the navigation of migratory animals and the hunting behaviors of predatory species. It also makes sense for the survival of our world to mitigate the avenues of oil production.
While some sources of carbon emissions can be linked as the byproduct of oil drilling, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, rather than decreasing carbon emissions, offshore drilling does the opposite. Offshore drilling is predicted to increase global carbon emission by over 49.5 gigatons over the lifetime of the oil rig leases. America, which is the second largest producer of carbon emissions, should reduce the amount of carbon expelled into the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, in the context of the other threats to our liberties by the Trump administration, the oil controversy may be quickly forgotten and dismissed by the media and general public. The danger it poses to our environment will become more obvious in the future, but it may be realized once it is too late. Our coastlines are not only scenic gems, they fuel entire industries and act as a global economic engine. Our treatment of our coastlines can directly impact the subsequent treatment of coastlines around the world.