The tragedy occurring off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico is truly unprecedented. The impact will likely be felt for decades both by the environment and in the economies that derive their livelihoods from the Gulf.
The question of what to do, if anything, is burning up the airwaves and stinging the ears of all who are involved. What do we do?
“Ban the Drill”
There have been calls to ban all offshore drilling and, indeed, the president is among those who would advocate such a plan. The problem is that this is a bit short sighted.
In 2008 there were 34,017 fatal car crashes in the United States; in 2007 37,435 (Source). That averages out to roughly 100 fatal car crashes per day and yet there is no movement underway to ban automobiles. There are no Congressional hearings underway to determine the safety of driving.
There are no calls to ban outdoor activities despite the fact that about 54 people a year lose their lives to lightning strikes (Source). In fact in the United States alone about 121,599 people died from accidental causes (Source). Where is the outrage? Where are the PACs lobbying Washington to ban accidents?
What happened/is happening in the Gulf of Mexico was/is an accident. The oil industry profits nothing by spilling millions of gallons of its product into the ocean. It profits nothing by taking a beating in the media and risking more draconian governmental oversight. It may have been an accident caused by bad practices and if that is the case then British Petroleum should be made to pay in the forms of fines, lawsuits and the cost of cleanup and criminal prosecution; but either way it was an accident.
The American public should not be made to pay for B.P.’s actions in the form of higher energy costs and weakened national security. That is what is on the table when politicians propose banning offshore drilling. It is true that we need to move to alternative energies but in order to do that there must be viable alternatives. There is nothing out there that can replace oil; not now and not in the foreseeable future. Until such time as there is an alternative we are stuck with oil.
Since we are stuck with oil it is in our best interests to produce our own. Relying on foreign countries (often unstable) leaves us at their mercy. If that were the only source of oil then we would again be stuck; but it is not. We have our own rich oil fields waiting to be tapped.
There are dangers involved in drilling offshore. There are dangers involved in walking out your front door to check the mail. Statistically you are in more danger checking your mail than by allowing offshore drilling and yet there is no call to ban mail checking. Just something to think about.