SIX POINTS ABOUT THE BP OIL SPILL FROM A PRO-DRILLING ENVIRONMENTALIST
#1 Drill on our own turf
America must expand--not prohibit--offshore oil drilling. The worst thing we could do is to push the problem out of view. Only when we see oil rigs crowded along our coastlines, and experience the human consequences of oil extraction and consumption on our home turf, will we mobilize the shift toward energy efficiency and clean solutions on a grand scale. If our coastlines are closed to oil development, and our demand continues unabated, the risks of offshore production will simply shift to the coastlines of Nigeria, South Korea, Kazakhstan, Angola and other oil-producing nations where environmental standards are extremely lenient, if they even exist.
#2: Offshore drilling is inevitable, and will only get riskier
Offshore drilling is inevitable for decades to come. Deep-sea drilling regions are the industry's final frontier for major new oil discoveries -- most land reserves have been tapped. The industry will continue going further offshore and inserting drills deeper into sea beds to tap new resources, facing ever-greater risks in turn. It's not these risks that should concern us -- they can be managed with proper safety measures and regulatory oversight. The real problem is our failure to hold ourselves accountable.
#3: Consumers play a role
In a single day, Americans consume roughly 750 million gallons of oil—about 20 times more than the total volume of crude that has leaked into the Gulf so far. Per capita, we consume about 30 percent more oil each day than Europeans, and about 40 percent more than the Japanese. The spill has exposed our collective ignorance about what it takes to satisfy our unrivaled appetite for oil.
#4: The challenge isn't our technology, it's our mindset.
We are capable of solutions on a grand scale. Current innovations in renewable energy, electric cars, green buildings, sophisticated plastics and the smart grid are getting better and cheaper fast. But transformative change can happen only when mainstream America embraces it as absolutely necessary. The question that persists today is: What will it take to convince Americans that shifting away from fossil fuels is absolutely necessary?
#5 Preempting another disaster
Americans can offset every barrel of oil that's spewing into the Gulf. This is a shockingly easy proposition -- it just means cutting by a fraction our oil use for one day. Take public transit, carpool, fill up your tires with air, telecommute to work for a day, buy local--cutting our oil use is the best thing we can do in the long run to preempt drilling disasters.
#6 Past is prologue
America has a rich history of energy innovation--we drilled the first oil wells, we installed the first power plants and electricity grid, we mass-produced the first automobiles, we applied the first petrochemical fertilizers, we built the plastics industry, we invented the first solar panels and wind turbines. We have staggering potential as a nation to solve problems and innovate. American ingenuity got us into this mess, and American ingenuity will get us out of it.