Gearing up for the Gulf
Opposition to offshore drilling helped protect the Atlantic, now the movement is challenging Big Oil on the Gulf Coast
East Coast residents and wildlife were protected from offshore oil drilling last week, but those from Alaska and the Gulf Coast weren’t. Endangered North Atlantic right whales got the help they needed, but Alaska’s polar bears and Louisiana’s sea turtles didn’t.
From the perspective of addressing climate change or preventing future oil spills, it doesn’t make sense. There’s an even bigger carbon bomb of unexploded greenhouse gases in the Arctic than there is in the Atlantic, and the risk of spills in the treacherous waters around Alaska is far higher than off the relatively placid shores of Virginia.
When Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the details of the new five-year plan for offshore oil leasing last Tuesday, she credited the strong public opposition to offshore drilling on the Eastern seaboard: “There was tremendous interest in the Atlantic and generally it was expressing concern.”
That’s an encouraging sign for the Gulf Coast residents who are now mobilizing to fight the oil industry on its home turf and asking for no new oil leases. An unprecedented protest will demand that the feds cancel the March 23 offshore lease sale at the Superdome in New Orleans — where they’ll make a high-profile stand — and all future Gulf leases. [UPDATE: The movement next heads back to New Orleans on April 18 and to Houston on April 20 for rallies at federal hearings plans to offer 10 new Gulf leases as part of the Obama administrations five-year offshore energy plan.]
If public outrage and action can work on the East Coast, where the shores are unspoiled by the ravages of dirty fossil fuel extraction, then why not on the Gulf Coast? After all, this is a region heavily scarred by the country’s fossil fuel addiction and in desperate need of rejuvenation and environmental justice.
That’s one reason why we should all support Gulf residents in their fight against Big Oil. If we’re going to confront climate change and prevent more disastrous oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon, that means blocking new offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico and all our oceans.
Doing so would keep up to 61.5 billion tons of potential greenhouse gas pollution in the ground, according to a study we recently commissioned, or the equivalent of driving 13 billion passenger vehicles for one year. And yes, that’s a huge impact given that there are far fewer than 2 billion cars in the world.
Obama and future presidents will need strong public support to do the right thing. So those concerned about offshore drilling should commit to support all of friends and allies around Alaska and the Gulf Coast — including those with feet, fins or fur; two legs, four legs or two wings — to strengthen the growing movement that is saying “no new leases” and “keep it in the ground.”
Let’s move into the clean energy future that we all want and need, and the first step is to end fossil fuel development in all our public waters, from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico.