The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced last week that lease sale 238 would be held in New Orleans on Aug. 20. It will be the sixth offshore sale under the Obama administration’s five-year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (think of the hours of imaginative discussion it must have taken to come up with that name).
It got me thinking that the Obama administration was seriously considering opening part of the Atlantic seaboard to offshore oil and gas exploration early in his first term. Former President George W. Bush wanted to do the same thing. Then the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred in the Gulf of Mexico and any thought that the same type of horror could befall the Atlantic seaboard deep sixed those plans.
However, last Friday, over the objections of environmental groups, BOEM announced that is has given oil companies permission to search the Atlantic Ocean floor for an estimated 4 billion barrels of oil and 37 trillion cubic feet of natural gas deposits using sonic blasts. The American Petroleum Institute said the move was "a big deal."
The announcement hit environmental and marine life advocates like a sonic blast because of the process involved. The way I understand it, these sonic canons, which are towed out to sea, shoot sound waves, which bounce off the ocean floor and back to the surface. The sound waves are very loud and could cause damage to a plethora of marine life along the Atlantic Coast.
These sonic canons have been used in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s North Slope. Why aren’t they good enough in the Atlantic Ocean? Is marine life in the Atlantic so much daintier than marine life in the Gulf of Mexico or offshore Alaska? Get real.
Obama understands that one way to stay out of places like Iraq is to concentrate on developing our own natural resources in an environmentally responsible way.
Yes, it’s risk and reward. But Obama’s people, under heavy criticism from oil and gas interests in the Gulf, took their time developing new regulations for oil and gas drilling permits following the BP oil spill, and, so far, they seem to be working. Why can’t the administration do the same for the Atlantic Ocean?
Will there be an oil and gas lease sale offshore Atlantic in the future? To distance ourselves from the Middle East, I hope so.