Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Audacity of Nope

US Rep. John Garamendi, a freshman Democrat from California, seemed an odd choice for the first witness when the House Natural Resources Committee held its second hearing on the Gulf of Mexico rig accident and crude oil spill. As he testified, however, it became apparent why he was there.

“The purpose of my attendance here and participation in this is to say Murphy was right with his law: ‘What can go wrong will go wrong.’” he told the committee. “We’ve seen plenty of that in the past. In the gulf over the last 15 to 20 years, we’ve seen some 38 blowouts. In California, and this brings me to my point, we saw a massive blowout in 1969 in the Santa Barbara channel that led to a moratorium on the West Coast in state waters for the last 43 years.”

Garamendi then said that as California’s lieutenant governor, “I led the fight to stop new oil leasing in California waters.” Then I remembered where I’d heard his name: He was the state official behind a successful effort to convince a majority of California’s state senate to reject Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2009 proposal, endorsed by the state Democratic and Republican legislative leaders, to help eliminate the state’s $26.3 billion budget deficit by letting Plains Exploration & Production Co. directionally drill into state waters from an existing platform in federal waters. The governor estimated when he proposed the idea that this would produce $1.8 billion of revenue for the state by 2022.

“It will happen again,” Garamendi maintained. “Despite every effort, accidents do occur. And when those accidents occur, should it be from a drilling platform on the West Coast when a blowout occurs, we’re talking about a major problem – environmental to be sure, and economic.” He said that California’s coastline provides $22 billion in annual economic activity and employs 369,000 people; in Oregon, more than $1 billion/year and some 17,000 jobs, and in Washington, more than $8 billion and 150,000 jobs.

“No more oil. We can drill baby drill but we can also count on spill baby spill,” said Garamendi. “And that’s happened. Not just this one incident, as horrible as it is in the Gulf Coast, but it’s happened over and over throughout the world. A huge blowout on the West Coast of Australia lost year took months to contain. And here we are once again. It’s time for a permanent law.” He said that he introduced a bill, H.R. 5213, which would reinstate federal oil and gas leasing bans on the West Coast and make them permanent. Six US Senate Democrats from California, Oregon, and Washington have introduced a similar measure on that side of the Capitol.

Garamendi noted that other US House members have introduced bills to permanently close the East Coast to leasing and increase protections along Florida’s west coast. “It is important for this nation to end its addiction to oil. As long as we drill, as long as we open our coastlines to drilling, we will continue our addiction, just as surely as a junkie on the street will find the next pusher,” he declared. “It’s time for us to say enough and to spend those vast amounts of money that are employed in the drilling industry, to spend that money on renewable energies of all kinds. Solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, all of those things must be our future. It’s our opportunity today to push the junkie aside and to end our addiction, and the legislation that I’m proposing and that my colleagues are proposing set us on that course.”

When he finished, committee member Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who is emerging as the GOP side’s asker of important questions about oil and gas on this committee after Stevan Pearce (R-NM) left at the end of 2008, asked Garamendi if he favored halting all US offshore oil production. When Garamendi said that he did, Cassidy then asked where the oil would come from and noted that tankers regularly spill more crude than drillships or production platforms. A third committee member, George Miller (D-Calif.), who has been in the House longer than either of them, felt sorry for Garamendi, who had trouble coming up with an answer, and said that “the gentleman is saying we should use alternatives instead.”

California isn’t the only state where members of its congressional delegation visibly court coastal property owners’ support by calling for permanent bans on offshore oil and gas activity. When US President Barack H. Obama announced on May 27 that he was ordering a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, US Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) applauded the decision but added that it didn’t go far enough. “The danger will remain until drilling in the Atlantic is taken off the table altogether,” Lautenberg said. “BP’s oil catastrophe in the Gulf is a wake-up call for our nation. Giving Big Oil more access to our nation’s waters will only lead to more pollution, more lost jobs, and more damage to our economy. We need a permanent ban on drilling in the Atlantic, tightened regulations, and a real push to find clean energy alternatives to oil.”

Seeing a Senate Democrat berate Obama’s action reminded me that the president was elected in 2008 with a campaign that, in part, emphasized the audacity of hope. What these and other strident offshore oil and gas opponents are showing now is the audacity of nope.

6 Comments:

Blogger prashant said...

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June 7, 2010 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger kinsley said...

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June 7, 2010 at 9:26 PM  
Anonymous zlatko said...

How people are superficial: There are two types of energy:
1 "Stationary" (electrical, solar wind...)
2 "Mobile" (gasoline, diesel fuels)
You can not get independent or use wind power for an airplane or you need very long extension cord. Do you get my point. At this time there is nothing, nothing to replace oil. All these nonsenses as electrical cars are simply not ready yet. Battery energy density is to low, as well as solar energy. Hydrogen is excellent but way to expensive. Hybrid cars are free market nonsense just to make money, better effects can be achieved with small Diesel engines. How many 500 HP cars is on the market? At least 50 models or so. This is the problem altough I would like to have 911 with 550 HP. This creates oil dependency. Chevy suburbans large unnecessary trucks just to name several.
Science still does not have answer to replace oil and until one is found we should save as much oil as possible. This country need high speed trains, 95% of big trucks should be replaced by train transportation. And then comes truckers association lobyst and all initiatives are dead.
There must be drilling but must be much better regulated. Then again comes oil lobyst and we are where we are now.

June 10, 2010 at 1:01 PM  
Anonymous zlatko said...

How people are superficial: There are two types of energy:
1 "Stationary" (electrical, solar wind...)
2 "Mobile" (gasoline, diesel fuels)
You can not get independent or use wind power for an airplane or you need very long extension cord. Do you get my point. At this time there is nothing, nothing to replace oil. All these nonsenses as electrical cars are simply not ready yet. Battery energy density is to low, as well as solar energy. Hydrogen is excellent but way to expensive. Hybrid cars are free market nonsense just to make money, better effects can be achieved with small Diesel engines. How many 500 HP cars is on the market? At least 50 models or so. This is the problem altough I would like to have 911 with 550 HP. This creates oil dependency. Chevy suburbans large unnecessary trucks just to name several.
Science still does not have answer to replace oil and until one is found we should save as much oil as possible. This country need high speed trains, 95% of big trucks should be replaced by train transportation. And then comes truckers association lobyst and all initiatives are dead.
There must be drilling but must be much better regulated. Then again comes oil lobyst and we are where we are now.

June 10, 2010 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Informer said...

More of a question and maybe not the correct place,but I'm here.
The moratorium. Seems to me even "green energy" could be affected. Once the skills of functioning machine shops doing work for offshore operations for example are dispersed through unemployment things like offshore wind farms could be more difficult because the knowledge about and dealing with metals for example that are used in harsh offshore conditions will not be as accessible or implemented in as streamlined fashion.

June 20, 2010 at 7:21 PM  
Anonymous Private Placement Memorandum Template said...

Yeah, I suppose we're not ready for much of anyhting either.

Oil is still far too cheap for any kind of viable alternative to come in and replace it. At least, not now. It will happen in increments, I suppose.

October 3, 2010 at 3:44 PM  

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