The following letter is from Mark Floegel Senior Researcher for Greenpeace.
Just three years after Katrina, Hurricane Gustav has hit the Gulf coast, leaving a great deal of damage in its wake. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this storm, and I hope the recovery efforts will be swift for those in the storm’s path.
I was in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina to document the environmental destruction it caused: the oil spills, chemical spills, and wetlands destruction.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused “six major, five medium, and over 5,000 minor oil and hazmat” spills, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. An estimated nine million gallons of oil were spilled, and that estimate does not even include the 5,000 minor spills. I saw many of the oil spills Katrina caused first-hand, and I know there is a serious risk of ecological devastation in the wake of Gustav, which plowed through more than 4,000 offshore drilling platforms and 33,000 miles of pipeline in the Gulf.
Along with its human and environmental impacts, the trashing of oil rigs in the Gulf can have economic consequences, too, as an interruption in production can lead to a spike in gas prices.
But despite the obvious risks that offshore drilling pose to our nation’s beaches, our economy, wildlife, and ecosystems, there is a major political push for more offshore drilling right now in Congress. Even if we didn’t learn our lesson from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Hurricane Gustav and the hurricanes following in his wake should demonstrate once and for all that offshore drilling is not a secure energy plan for America. We don’t need more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or off the coasts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, which are also frequent targets of hurricanes. California’s earthquake-prone coast isn’t a good place for offshore rigs either and the threat to wildlife and pristine oceans in Alaska is reason enough to ban drilling there, too.
Offshore drilling isn’t a solution to our dependence on foreign oil and high energy prices. Our oil addiction can only be cured by changing the way we find and use energy. The only energy investments we should be making are in clean, renewable sources like wind and solar that we can produce right here in the United States. We’ll need an automobile fleet with much higher gas mileage and a move toward electric cars. All of this is possible today if there is a will in Congress and in corporate board rooms.
Right now, the U.S. Minerals Management Service is accepting public comments on its new 5-year drilling plan that would open up more of our coasts to oil drilling. Tell the government to keep our coastal waters safe and oppose new offshore drilling.
You can help lead the charge for real solutions, not false remedies that waste precious time in the fight to curb the most serious impacts of global warming.