Offshore Oil Drilling In The United States: A Danger To The Environment

As the power hungry Trump administration works to overthrow all progressions made in the past few years, environmental protection in the United States faces severe headwinds. The article “Say No to Coastal Drilling,” by Jacqueline Savitz at the New York Times addresses Secretary of the Interior Zinke’s decision to expand offshore drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the United States and the potential repercussions this decision may spur. Additionally, this article calls into question the authority of the Trump administration to enact policies that pose a danger to the environment of not just the United States, but the entire world. Unsustainable resources such as oil are one of the main causes of climate change as they facilitate the release of greenhouse gases; therefore, the decision to invest further resources into the obtainment of fossil fuels insures that the perilous trend of global warming will continue. In spite of the economic appeals of offshore drilling, grave political and environmental repercussions make investment in fossil fuels an injudicious decision.

Secretary Zinke has expressed full support for the augmentation of offshore drilling and, as stated by Savitz, has turned the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) into a friend of the oil industry. Consequently, allowing an unregulated oil industry to have free reign across the entire nation. Looking back on the Obama administration’s efforts to limit oil drilling, Secretary Zinke claims that their policies endangered jobs and left millions of Americans unemployed. However, an increased investment in sustainable energy has the potential to create an immense amount of jobs to replace those that were lost. Zinke has shown varying opinions on energy and environmental issues in the past — calling into question the credibility of his opinion on this matter. In 2010, Secretary Zinke was one of 1,200 state legislators who signed a letter to the Obama administration demanding that the government create 'comprehensive clean energy jobs and climate change legislation. ' By contrast, in recent years Zinke has voted to remove restrictions on the ivory trade in Africa and to block the Bureau of Land Management from limiting harm to wildlife, water, and air from hydraulic fracking. His political career is “substantially devoted to attacking endangered species and the Endangered Species Act,” which calls into question his authority to make environmentally concerned decisions.

The advancement of offshore drilling was proposed by Secretary Zinke in an attempt to achieve what he and President Trump loosely call energy dominance. Secretary Zinke stated there “is a clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance. ” The lack of an operational definition for this word limits its credence in context. However, when comparing the availability of oil resources within the United States to other nations, such as Saudi Arabia, the goal of energy dominance would be nearly impossible to obtain — without severe environmental and possibly political repercussions. According to Secretary Zinke, “energy dominance gives us the ability to supply our allies with energy, as well as to leverage [. . . ] our enemies, like Iran. ” Although, he is correct in stating that greater energy dominance could serve as a form of leverage for the United States, seeking out to take over the oil industry could damage the United States’ already uneasy relationship with many Middle Eastern nations. Much of the animosity between the United States and Iran is based in their opposing claims to the oil industry. Therefore, by seeking to entirely overtake the industry it is inevitable that the conflict between the two nations will escalate. Overall, the poorly defined concept of energy dominance is accompanied by a panoply of hazardous ramifications that make its pursuit inane.

Environmental impacts of offshore drilling are expansive and pose a threat to the sustainability of human existence. Oil spills are just one of many problems associated with the loosening of supervision over offshore drilling. For example, Savitz references the major BP oil spill in 2010 that initiated greater regulations for oil companies to abide by. According to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation and The Environmental Protection Agency, since these directives were established the instances of oil spills in the United States have declined. Therefore, deregulation of the oil industry would reverse these recent progressions. Furthermore, as drilling expands into Alaska’s Wildlife Reserves, the repercussions if a spill does occur dramatically incline. A spill in the Alaskan Pacific would be nearly impossible to contain and clean up. In addition, a spill would expose a wide array of endangered species to concentrated petroleum deposits. Even without the extremity of a spill, oil rigs still expose wildlife and marine creatures to a wide array of dangerous pollutants including drilling muds, brine wastes, and runoff water. Despite the danger of offshore rigs, the main threat to the unsoiled environment of the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve is fracking.

Fracking is a widely used method of extracting oil and natural gas from the earth that has monumental impacts on the environment. One of the major chemicals used in the fracking process is methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas, and about 4% of methane used in the process escapes and is released into our atmosphere. Methane is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide and, therefore, is an extremely formidable air pollutant. A research study in Wyoming revealed that air quality near rural drilling sites was worse than Los Angeles’. Another major problem associated with fracking is groundwater contamination. The fracking process creates fissures through which toxic chemicals can travel and infiltrate underground water reserves.

Overall, fracking is an extremely detrimental process that causes complete deterioration of its host environment. The dismissive attitude of the Trump administration regarding environmental issues shows a reckless disregard for the political and environmental climate of The United States. Continual expansion into unsustainable energy sources must be limited and the money being funneled in offshore drilling should be rerouted to research in sustainable sources of energy – such as solar power. Additionally, the current statutes that limit the power of oil companies and guaranty federal oversight of their actions must remain intact. The Trump administration must be limited in their power to make environmentally unconscious decisions and their current actions must be rectified.

10 December 2020
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