The Enemy to Off-Shore Drilling?

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Today at the Offshore Technology Conference (which I am at on sponsorship by the American Petroleum Institute), I attended a panel discussion titled: The Case for Access to Oil and Gas Resources on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. As the title and graphic to my post probably reveal, the panel was less reasonable than the one I attended yesterday.

Let me say, first of all, I support exploration of the outer continental shelf. It’s been nearly 30 years since anyone has done oil and gas surveying and we need to know how much hydrocarbons are recoverable in the waters off our Eastern and Western seaboards. Exploration should be a no-brainer — we’re going to need oil and gas for many years to come, no matter how fast we ramp up renewable energy sources.

All that said, I was put-off by the anti-environmentalist (as distinct from anti-environmental) attitude of the panel. There seemed to be a general perception that if the environmentalists just got out of the way, the oil and gas companies would take care of things in the best possible way. The situation devolved to a point where one member of the audience accused characters like Dora the Explorer of “indoctrinating” our youth — and no one on the panel seemed to disagree.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no reasonable link between teaching children to conserve and recycle (as Dora does) and the issues surrounding OCS exploration and drilling. The panelists consistently said we need to find common ground, and yet they often had no problem lumping positive environmentalism with the kind of short-sighted, anti-oil crusades being waged by some of the less intellectually honest members of the left. You can’t say you want engagement on the issue (as these industry leaders say they want) and then act like Dora the Explorer is some leftist plot to ruin our future.

I know those on the panel and in the audience were just voicing their frustrations in a closed environment. In the real world, I imagine they are more willing to interact with their Green counterparts. However, I don’t think progress can be achieved so long as oil and gas interests see themselves as some kind of victim. Yes, we need to explore and drill in areas previously off limits. We have the clean technology and high-end machinery capable of making such efforts efficient and of minimal impact to the environment. But if the oil and gas industry wants to convince the majority of Americans of this necessity, they need to be able to separate positive environmentalism with ill-informed obstructionism.

There should be a common ground solution to our future energy needs. But both sides need to move away from demonization.