President Obama recently announced his decision to drill for oil off the northern coast of Alaska, the Atlantic coastline, and the Gulf of Mexico. We all know that drilling is bad for the environment. Oil production, waste dumping, and spills wreak havoc on the surrounding wildlife and habitat, threatening plant life and animal life, on land and in the surrounding waters.
In fact, the only thing we can all agree on is that drilling is bad for the environment. There is heated debate about whether the environmental costs are worth the economic gains. Greenpeace says drilling for oil today will not immediately affect gas prices and the profits of oil drilling will go straight to the corporations, not to the consumers. However, drilling for US oil will also lower our dependence on foreign reserves. Some argue that it will take time to build the infrastructure to create renewable energy, and in the meantime we need the fossil fuels to buy that time. We also need the fuels to build that infrastructure, to put up wind turbines or build nuclear power facilities. Additionally, many forms of renewable energy require some amount of oil to start the process of energy creation, such as the transport of substances like LNG or the creation of steam to make electricity.
Should we be drilling for oil now? Isn’t the U.S. going to tap all its oil reserves sooner or later, in which case maybe it should be sooner, under a conscientious administration? Are we only drilling now because the oil lobby is simply stronger and louder than the green lobby? Perhaps after tackling health care, Obama is sticking to whatever makes American pockets fuller. But was this really the best topic to pick up right after the heavyweight health care debate? President Obama’s decision to drill is drawing critics from all sides. Environmentalists are furious and many republicans argue that the assigned amount of drilling will be insufficient to boost the American economy. And even if we lower our dependence on foreign oil, it’s only by tiny margins, and is still unlikely to quickly come to market, and even more unlikely to affect gas prices at the consumer level. If drilling for oil will have few positive economic effects and potentially be the cause of many environmental hazards, why on earth are we drilling for oil?