“Louisiana produces 30 percent to 40 percent of the nation’s oil and gas off our coast. It is certainly good for our economy … It is also good for the nation…”
That was Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal in 2006 speaking about allowing offshore oil drilling. Today his state is preparing for one of the worst environmental disasters to hit the US in over 20 years.
On April 20th an explosion on an exploratory drill rig killed eleven workers and caused the rig to sink into the Gulf of Mexico. The accident exposed an open wellhead that experts estimate is leaking up to five thousand barrels of oil per day. The oil spill is expected to hit land at some point today and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries estimates that more than 400 species of wildlife could be affected. In short, this could very well be an environmental disaster of epic proportions. For a map of the area and a list of particular species affected, see the NY Times’s Gulf Oil Spill Map.
There has been a lot of debate over the past year about lifting the ban on offshore oil drilling. The “drill baby, drill” crowd insists that drilling off of the US coast will lessen our dependence on foreign oil, but at what cost? In addition to the damage caused to the wildlife, the spill could have devastating effects on Gulf Coast economy. Now is the time to pressure both Congress and the President to rethink their positions on offshore oil drilling. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has already said that he will introduce a bill to block the administration’s increased offshore drilling plans for now.
The bottom line is that no matter how technologically advanced the equipment is, accidents will happen. And companies like BP will fight against tighter regulations and safety standards. In the long run we have to ask ourselves if it’s worth the risk for what is ultimately a finite energy source.