I was relaxing at the beach a few weeks ago, and it struck me: thousands of people in the Gulf can't visit the beach this summer because of the oil spill. Beaches are soiled, wildlife is under siege and livelihoods have been ruined.
So when are we going to do something to make sure a disaster like this doesn't happen again?
Big Oil is like a pusher who wants to sell us one more hit, and who wants us to believe that the alternative isn't worth it.
Well, it's time to tell the pusher we're going clean. Our oil addiction is preventing us from finding clean energy solutions that could stimulate our economy and make us world leaders in clean energy technologies.
Yes, the pusher is going to continue to propagate the myths we've been hearing about offshore drilling: that it will lower the price of gasoline; that it will make us energy independent; that it's safe; that we need the energy; that its jobs are irreplaceable.
We shouldn't believe the sales pitch, instead let's look at the facts.
The Energy Information Agency (EIA) showed that allowing drilling on all of our coasts would only lower gas prices about three cents per gallon, and not until 2030. The EIA has also shown that we only reduce imports from about 60% to 58% if we open the remainder of our coasts. That's not even close to energy independence.
Building a clean energy manufacturing base in the Gulf of Mexico could provide even more jobs than offshore drilling, and this technology can be exported globally, to strengthen our economy. And it doesn't spill.
Instead of listening to the pusher, we should be asking ourselves: Do we need the energy offshore drilling provides, or could we get it another way, and alleviate the risks of drilling?
Here's the deal -- the Gulf of Mexico provides about 8% of our oil. That amount could be replaced through conservation, energy efficiency programs and clean energy. If we stop offshore drilling now, ongoing production in the Gulf of Mexico could serve as a bridge, while these new programs get underway.
What would it take to cut our oil use by 8%, or 1.6 million barrels of oil per day? Here's one example of a way to do it in five-steps:
- Using fuel more efficiently in shipping could save 108,000 barrels of oil each day. Studies from the International Maritime Organization show that operational and technical changes available today could achieve these reductions and more.
- Shifting 25% of homes from oil heat to more efficient electrical heat could save 213,000 barrels of oil each day.
- Replacing oil in power plants with clean energy such as offshore wind could reduce demand by 210,000 barrels of oil each day.
- Replacing about 10% of the cars on the road today with electric ones could save 576,000 barrels of oil each day.
- Advanced biofuels derived from non-food sources like algae and switchgrass could ultimately replace all of the oil we get from the Gulf of Mexico. But even if we used just 15% of that projection that could supplant oil demand by another 600,000 barrels per day.
These five steps can be varied to emphasize one or the other more or less to get us an energy plan that would make Gulf drilling unnecessary. The additional electricity demands it creates could be satisfied by clean, carbon-free energy. We could have 20 Gigawatts of offshore wind capacity installed by 2020. Together with solar power, land-based wind and other solutions, we can get more than enough clean energy to cover the additional demands on the power grid.
Although innovation is a powerful force, those that benefit from the status quo have the resources to influence public opinion and public policy. But we, the people, still have the final say. Let's stop listening to the myths and start taking common sense steps to break our oil addiction.
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