Monday, December 9, 2019
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Support Crumbling for Offshore Oil Drilling in Virginia?

I don't know much about this polling outfit, but the results are intriguing.
PUBLIC SUPPORT for offshore drilling in Virginia has dropped significantly in the wake of the Gulf Coast oil spill disaster, an Inside Business poll has found.

In April, research firm Issues and Answers Inc. polled 200 people, who were asked, "Do you support the opening of the East Coast, specifically Virginia's coastline, to offshore drilling?"

At that time, 62.58 percent replied yes.

On May 2, another 200 people were polled and asked the same question.

This time, only 38.5 percent said yes.

"It's not surprising at all, given what's going on in the Gulf of Mexico," said Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, a big proponent of off-shore oil drilling..."

Well no, Sen. Wagner, these shouldn't be surprising poll results, "given what's going on in the Gulf of Mexico." The question is whether this apparent decline in support for oil drilling off Virginia's coast continues, or if it rebounds once the Gulf of Mexico disaster is history. Of course, given the ecological and economic damage it looks like the Gulf oil spill could cause, it could be many years before it's truly "history."

Good News On the Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster, But…

It's good news (at least, we all hope!) that "BP succeeded on Sunday in its second attempt at inserting a new tube into its damaged oil pipe that has been gushing oil from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico for three and a half weeks."  Still, even if this latest "fix" actually works for more than a few minutes/hours/days, this situation remains a complete, unmitigated disaster for Gulf of Mexico, as well as for everyone who lives and works along the Gulf coast. In addition, it is important to point out that, even when BP manages to stop this oil gusher, the effects will linger, most likely for years to come.  For more on that, see "Oil spill imperils an unseen world at the bottom of the gulf", "Huge oil plumes found under Gulf as BP struggles", and "Natural Gas Leak 3000 Times Worse Than Oil".

I strongly recommend that Bob McDonnell and others in the "drill baby drill" crowd read this material with an open mind (if that's possible with these lunkheads) and reconsider their uncritical, reckless, whole-hog, mindless support for drilling off Virginia's coast. At the minimum, the Gulf of Mexico disaster should make McDonnell et al. think long and hard about the potential costs (huge) and benefits (minimal) of drilling a few miles from Virginia Beach, particularly in relation to other options like energy efficiency and offshore wind power.  It should make them think long and hard, but knowing these people, it probably won't, unfortunately.

Repower America Gulf Coast Oil Spill Ad


The takeaway message from this excellent ad? "The only way to end catastrophic oil spills is to end our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels."

Tell Bob McDonnell: “Wind Not Oil!”

If you care about the environment and don't want to see Virginia's coastline trashed by oil companies, lease sign the "Wind Not Oil" petition by Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN).  As CCAN writes, offshore oil drilling "can never be made entirely safe, and the consequences - as we now know - can be catastrophic." Also, it's important to point out that "Virginia could easily get 10 percent of its electricity from offshore windmills, creating 10,000 jobs."  Finally, of course, there's no such thing as a "wind spill." :)

For all of those reasons, we need to tell Bob McDonnell that offshore wind power, not offshore oil drilling, is  "the right direction for Virginia and the nation."  Thanks.

Sen. Webb Statement on Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster

Courtesy of EnviroKnow, here's a statement by Senator Webb's office about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I agree with this to a large extent, except for two points I'd make: 1) let's face it, offshore oil drilling is inherently risky, as even one accident like the current one can be disastrous; and 2) given this country's relatively small oil reserves and relatively high consumption, the belief that increased U.S. offshore oil drilling will ever constitute a significant component of any "energy independence" strategy for the our country is highly unlikely. With that, here's the statement from Sen. Webb's office.
Senator Webb has said consistently that a comprehensive approach is necessary in order to address our nation's energy needs. Senator Webb believes we must insist on the highest standards of safety and environmental protection, but that we cannot retreat from the goal of energy independence.

Senator Webb has always maintained that offshore drilling be conducted under stringent conditions that safeguard platform workers, the environmentally sensitive coastal region and our nation's marine resources.

While all of the facts are not in, this high standard plainly was not met with respect to the current disaster. Neither British Petroleum nor our federal regulators have adopted provisions for the remote shut-off of oil valves when explosions or other disasters occur. Brazil, Norway and other countries have maintained such standards since the early 90's. The United States-and any country involved in exploration off of our coastlines-should as well. The Senator will urge that these measures be adopted in the review of offshore programs that the President has wisely called for.

Before commencing further drilling projects, Senator Webb believes the facts must be ascertained to determine how the disaster off the Gulf Coast could have been prevented-and whether it was due to the lack of technology or the failure to apply available technology. He believes an examination is also in order as to whether appropriate laws and regulations are on the books.


UPDATE #1: Glenn Nye's office chimes in.
Congressman Nye believes that offshore drilling must be done in an environmentally safe and responsible way that does not threaten Virginia's tourism or fishing industries. He feels that it is appropriate to delay any drilling off the coast of Virginia until the investigation of the gulf disaster is complete so we can ensure the same thing won't happen here

UPDATE #2: Mark Warner says it is "'appropriate' for Obama to delay offshore projects until safeguards are in place to prevent rig explosions like the one that caused the gulf spill."

UPDATE #3: I strongly agree with this letter by enviro groups, urging Congress "to oppose efforts to expand offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling off of our coasts" in light of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.  

“Offshore Myth Busting”

Great post by Peter Galuszka of Bacon's Rebellion, "Offshore Myth Busting." Here's the conclusion:
So, McDonnell and Obama should ask themselves, "What's it going to be for Virginia?" Obama says there will be no new offshore drilling until a thorough study is made of Deepwater Horizon. That's cold comfort.

As for McDonnell, he might want to knock off the idiotic "plane crash" excuse and consider that Big Oil with its Big Money would not be the only industry along Virginia's coast that he's sworn to protect. Consider the fishing, tourism and commercial shipping sectors, not to mention the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard which use offshore Virginia waters and pump in billions to the state's economy. That's right here, right now. Not sometime off in 2020.

So true. Unfortunately, the chances of Bob McDonnell having the interest or the brain cells to comprehend Peter Galuszka's article are minimal.

P.S. Also, see Miles Grant's Twitter feed for updates from the Gulf Coast, where he is covering the oil spill for the National Wildlife Federation.

Virginian-Pilot: “Gulf oil spill drifts to Virginia”

Superb editorial by the Virginian-Pilot, here's an excerpt but definitely read it all!
Since the beginning of the debate about offshore drilling, it has been clear that the promises are as concrete as petroleum fumes across the Gulf of Mexico. Inland lawmakers are lining up to prevent coastal states from getting any royalty money from offshore drilling. They outnumber Virginia's advocates.

[...]

But the most important assurance to residents of Virginia's coast was the one about the environment. Oil drilling, we were assured repeatedly by its advocates, is really safe these days. It won't damage the beaches, or the air, or our marshes. It certainly won't affect the wildlife.

Tell that to the people who live along the coast in Mississippi and Louisiana.

The End Result of “Drill Baby Drill”

I think Bill Maher speaks for most of us today when he says, "Every asshole who ever chanted 'Drill Baby Drill' should have to report to the Gulf Coast today for cleanup duty."

Oh, and let me just add: f*** you Sarah Palin!

Finally, just remember, if "drill baby drill" (or should we call it "spill baby spill?") afficionados like Bob McDonnell gets his way, the following photos could be coming to the Virginia coastline sometime in coming years. Let's all tell him, "no thank you!"

UPDATE: According to Reuters, "White House says no offshore drilling will be allowed in new areas until review of oil spill off La. coast."  Great, but how about offshore drilling in current areas using similar types of drilling equipment and techniques, such as failing to use acoustic valves as part of blowout preventers, as is done in other parts of the world?  Oh, and how about we make getting off of oil our #1 priority?  Until we do, disasters like this will happen again and again. Needless to say, that is completely unacceptable.

What Would Gulf Coast Oil Spill Look Like Off Virginia’s Coast?

Thanks to the magic of Photoshop, we can cut the Gulf Coast spill & paste it, scaled to size, off the Virginia coast in the area where drilling is planned. Via Twitter's Brad Johnson, here's what it looks like proportionately.

Obviously this is not exactly what a Virginia oil spill would look like. There are many variables -- wind direction & speed, water current patterns. This is not a forecast, it simply shows relative sizes.

What would all that oil do? Would it head out to sea? Towards the Chesapeake Bay & Virginia Beach? Up to Ocean City? Who knows.

But hey, at least oil spills come with a darkly comic side. Sen. Mark Warner, a relentless cheerleader for oil & gas drilling off Virginia's shores, is now being listed among coastal-state senators who've "expressed concerns about the safety & environmental impacts of offshore drilling." Who says you can't have it both ways?

UPDATE by Lowell: Much, much better news!

In a groundbreaking decision that some say will usher in a new era of clean energy, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today he was approving the nation's first offshore wind farm today, the controversial Cape Wind project off of Cape Cod.

"This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast," Salazar said at a joint State House news conference with Governor Deval Patrick. The decision comes after nine years of battles over the proposal.

Last I checked, wind power doesn't cause environmental catastrophes like offshore oil drilling does.

Obama Opens Virginia Coast to “Drill Baby Drill?”

Is Barack Obama about to open up Virginia's coast to offshore oil drilling?  According to this and this, it sure looks like the "drill baby drill" crowd is going to get its wish.
In a reversal of a long-standing ban on most offshore drilling, President Barack Obama is allowing oil drilling 50 miles off Virginia's shorelines. At the same time, he is rejecting some new drilling sites that had been planned in Alaska.

[...]

White House officials hope Wednesday's announcement will attract support from Republicans, who adopted a chant of "Drill, baby, drill" during 2008's presidential campaign.

The president's Wednesday remarks would be paired with other energy proposals that were more likely to find praise from environmental groups. The White House planned to announce it had ordered 5,000 hybrid vehicles for the government fleet. And on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department are to sign a final rule that requires increased fuel efficiency standards for new cars.

I have three immediate reactions.

First, as Tom Perriello has said, offshore oil drilling is a "2 cent solution to a 4 dollar problem."  The problem, of course, is America's heavy dependence on oil imports, and the negative national security implications that flow from this dependence. As former CIA Director Jim Woolsey says (quoted on the Operation FREE website), "We pay Saudi Arabia $160 billion for its oil, and $3 or $4 billion of that goes to the Wahhabis, who teach children to hate. We are paying for these terrorists with our SUVs."   How do we break this dangerous "oil addiction?" By far, the biggest "bang for the buck" is increased efficiency of our vehicle fleet. It's not even close.  In contrast, offshore oil drilling in the United States - a "mature oil province" where the production cost of a marginal barrel, certainly a marginal barrel offshore, is relatively high by world standards - represents the low end of the "bang for the buck" scale. Why would we focus our efforts on the low end of the "bang for the buck" scale instead of the high end? Got me.

Second, this is political pandering to the nth degree. Let's face it, "drill baby drill" is popular with the American public, especially with Republicans, and this is clearly an attempt to mollify those folks. We'll see if it works, but I'm skeptical, especially given the vicious opposition to health care reform, despite the fact that it provides tremendous benefits to most of the people protesting it. Perhaps opposition to Barack Obama isn't coming mainly from reasoned differences with his policy choices?

Third, this announcement, if it ever was made at all, should have been made only as part of a "grand bargain" on energy and climate change. In that context, I could see environmentalists conceding offshore oil drilling, in certain areas  and under tight environmental rules, in exchange for putting a price on carbon; establishing an aggressive, national, renewable portfolio standard; investing heavily in energy efficiency and other, non-carbon-emitting energy sources (wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, possibly even nuclear); cranking up fuel economy standards for automobiles and research into battery technology; building a national, "smart grid;;' etc.  Unfortunately, what I see here is very little (5,000 hybrid vehicles? is that a joke?) in exchange for opening up our coasts to oil drilling.  This is more like the "ExxonMobil Corporate Welfare Act of 2010" than the "Energy Independence and Climate Protection Act of 2010."  That's a major, missed opportunity. It's also not the "change" many of us who voted for Obama can believe in.

UPDATE: The more I think about this, the more I'm wondering if Obama isn't being very clever here by "calling the bluff" of the "drill baby drill" crowd.  As a commenter at Daily Kos writes:

This pretty much gives the "drill here, drill now, pay less" crowd the opportunity to put up or shut up.

After this makes no difference to oil prices, because the US no longer has any economically recoverable oil reserves (if we did, we'd have drilled there decades ago), maybe they'll have to admit we have a problem.

UPDATE #2: Wow, this is a shocker!
President Barack Obama's plan to allow expanded offshore oil and gas exploration won rebuke from the top House Republican on Wednesday.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed the president's plan as not going far enough in opening up U.S. waters for exploration.

Obama's decision "continues to defy the will of the American people," Boehner said in a statement, pointing to the president's decision to open Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters, while leaving Pacific and many Alaskan waters largely closed to exploration.

Amazing, who would have ever predicted that Republicans wouldn't rush to praise Obama for his "drill baby drill" (wide) stance? I'm shocked, shocked I say! Heh.

UPDATE 5 pm: Bob McDonnell has issued a statement.

I thank the President and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for ensuring Virginia will be the first state on the East Coast to explore for and produce energy offshore. The President's decision to allow energy exploration off Virginia's coast will mean thousands of new jobs, hundreds of millions in new state revenue and tens of billions of dollars in economic impact for the Commonwealth. It will also help our nation take a further step towards energy independence. Environmentally-safe offshore energy exploration and production is good for Virginia workers, the Virginia economy and national security. Just this session the General Assembly passed, with bipartisan support, legislation I requested to authorize offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling and to allocate 80% of revenues to transportation and 20% to green energy research and development.

The effort to ensure that Virginia stayed on track to hold an offshore lease sale as expeditiously as possible has been a bipartisan one at the federal level as well. I want to specifically thank Senator Mark Warner, Senator Jim Webb and Congressman Eric Cantor for their leadership and advocacy on the issue. I also want to thank all the Republicans and Democrats in our Congressional delegation who have strongly advocated for offshore energy production.

With today's announcement, oil and gas can be produced in an environmentally-safe manner 50 miles off Virginia's coast. Virginians will benefit from the thousands of jobs that will be created and the economic activity and development that will accompany this vital industry's arrival in the state. However, to fully participate in the positive impact of offshore energy development, the Commonwealth must be included in all royalty and revenue sharing arrangements, in a manner equivalent to what the Gulf Coast states currently receive. Congressman Bob Goodlatte has already introduced legislation, with bipartisan support, to ensure revenue sharing.  I urge our federal representatives to immediately move forward in ensuring Virginia receives our fair share of the revenues derived from our natural resources. I am confident that the United States Congress will act appropriately and expeditiously to ensure this occurs.

Offshore energy production is one part of an "all of the above" approach to ensuring energy security. It is an important component of the comprehensive energy policy that we must enact to move towards greater domestic energy security. We will also do more in Virginia to promote and produce other sources of energy in our borders, including wind, solar, biomass, coal and nuclear. Today's announcement means future new jobs for Virginians and much-needed revenue for our Commonwealth. Again, I applaud the President for his decision, and thank all the Virginia leaders from both parties who have worked together to make this announcement possible.