Planet Earth, 2010
After a year of unprecedented spending on federal lobbying to shape public opinion and the policy debate on climate legislation, on December 3 the oil industry released its own version of a federal energy bill entitled the "Creating Renewed Economic Activity through Energy Jobs Act of 2010."
Industry's CREATE Jobs Act bears little resemblance to the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2010 introduced by Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer. The Kerry-Boxer bill was supposed to transition America from our fossil fuel dependency to a clean green energy future.
Not surprisingly, the industry's bill dispenses with the key word "clean" - as in clean energy jobs - in its title and then proceeds to require expedited oil drilling, well, everywhere - in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain, throughout Alaskan waters including the Arctic Ocean and fish-rich Bristol Bay, and on the Florida Gulf Coast and Panhandle. This would be accomplished by rescinding, waiving, or limiting federal laws, state authority, and people's ability to protect these areas, while expediting judicial review of federal leasing and permitting decisions.
My guess is that, after spending $80 million on public relations and lobbying last year, the American Petroleum Institute felt Americans were ready to believe their industry scribes. Too bad they didn't just name it the "No Future Act of 2010." That might have tipped off the more gullible Americans as to exactly where this bill would take us.
The level of certainty that the oil industry demands creates a huge level of uncertainty for the rest of us. Action that leads to increased oil use means dangerous inaction to reduce carbon emissions and minimize impending chaos from climate destabilization. Secure oil jobs mean insecurity and hardship for billions of people and a totally different planet--if one believes the thousands of climate scientists who are not bought off by the oil or coal industry.
Environmentally responsible oil development is magical thinking. It doesn't exist, never has, and never will. Why? Because it's not just about oil development. It's about the whole equation - responsible oil use from cradle to cradle - which means counting the full costs of our oil dependency with regard to human health, communities, the environment, and the planet. And when this is honestly assessed, it boils down to things like the sky-rocketing rates of asthma associated with breathing ultrafine oil particles from burning fossil fuels in vehicles and power plants. Legacies of contaminated beaches and compromised ecosystems from failed oil spill cleanups like the Exxon Valdez. Ocean acidification and an entire planet heading for ecological catastrophe, which really can't be a good thing for any of us despite the oil industry's spin about the benefits of new shipping routes across the ice-free Arctic and the creation of new jobs (for them).
The No Future Act should be dead on arrival. There is no balance to decisions made by tallying up the benefits without tallying up the risks. In the debate over our energy future, it really is a no-brainer. Just ask youth leaders like Brower Youth Award winner Alec Loorz who, like all kids, will be stuck paying long-term consequences for the short-term gain of more oil jobs. We can't make buffer zones big enough to protect the climate - and it's doubtful we can make them big enough to protect our precious coastlines either, given Australia's rig blowout debacle in the Timor Sea or our own experience with Hurricane Katrina's destruction of oil rigs and pipelines.
The oil industry is a dying industry. If America clings to it, we will go down as well. Our future health and well-being depend on creating new industries in solar, wind, tidal, and algae biofuels. We need to insist that our elected leaders decouple our economy from fossil fuels and pass energy legislation that will give our children hope for their future.
Riki Ott is the feature character in the documentary Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, showing on Planet Green TV, December 5, from 8 to 10 PM EST. Her latest book on the spill is Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008).