In defense of a moratorium on offshore oil drilling
Dan Gatti, an environmental policy analyst at Environment America, writes in to dispute Lisa Margonelli's argument that we should shy away from a domestic moratorium on offshore drilling because it'll push oil production to areas of the world where spills are more frequent and more dangerous. He writes:
1) An expansion of offshore drilling will not significantly reduce the amount of oil the United States imports, from Nigeria or Saudi Arabia or from anywhere else. The EIA estimates that domestic production will increase by only a trivial figure as a result of new drilling offshore -- a 1.6 percent increase between 2012 and 2030, topping out at .2 million barrels per day by 2030. By comparison, the United States currently consumes almost 20 million barrels per day, of which over 13 million barrels per day is imported. The difference in the amount the United States imports as a result of expanded offshore drilling essentially amounts to a rounding error.
2) Because oil is a global market, whether the United States is able to produce a marginal increase in our domestic production of oil will have zero impact on the incentives for Nigeria or Angola to continue drilling for oil without environmental safeguards. The global demand for oil is currently at 85 million barrels per day, and is expected to increase by over 22 million barrels per day over the next 20 years. Having slightly less a percentage of Nigerian oil imported to the United States, as opposed to China or India, will not make the waters of the Nigerian delta any cleaner, or make the air surrounding Nigerian oil drilling any easier to breathe. What may make a difference is for the United States to lead the world in developing clean energy alternatives to oil, as well as encouraging international environmental standards for oil production.
3) A moratorium on offshore drilling might, however, make a huge difference to the lives of millions of Americans who live on the coasts of California, South Carolina, Maryland, or Florida, who do not want to suffer the horrendous damage to the environment and local economy currently being experienced by the residents of Louisiana and Mississippi.
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