Planet Gore

Mother Nature: Polluter

An interesting article in today’s WSJ on a group in Santa Barbara that’s pushing for offshore oil drilling as a way to stop oil-seepage onto the beaches.  An excerpt:

The national debate on energy production is playing out in smaller battles across the country. Authorities in Pennsylvania are concerned about the millions of gallons of water needed for natural-gas production there. Residents in Fort Worth, Texas, are clashing over pipelines being built in neighborhoods. Western states have seen fights over drilling in environmentally sensitive areas.

But there are few places where the debate is felt as keenly as in Santa Barbara. Tourists on Stearns Wharf can still see the oil platform that caused the 1969 oil spill — and is still operating under a grandfather provision of the federal drilling ban.

Since the spill, the city has become one of the environmental movement’s most secure strongholds; the City Council is considering a plan to make the city government carbon neutral by 2020.

Proponents of drilling argue the area has never been as one-sided as its liberal reputation suggests: 43% of county residents’ federal campaign contributions go to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A recent poll, paid for by an oil company, found that 61% of county residents support offshore drilling, compared with 51% statewide.

On a recent Monday evening, about a dozen drilling advocates gathered for steak and beans at the hilltop Santa Barbara home of Lad Handelman. A former abalone diver who founded two offshore oil-service companies, Mr. Handelman has hung a rusted steel drill bit in his entry hall. Photos of oil rigs line the walls.

Mr. Handelman’s guests included a physicist who is writing a book on solar energy, a graying surfer and an engineering student who arrived by motorcycle, as well as the president of an oil-services company.

The group was founded several years ago as Bring Oil Back, a direct challenge to Get Oil Out, a prominent local environmental group. Its members, many of them self-described environmentalists, argue a range of issues to support their view: the improved safety record of the oil industry, the dangers of dependence on foreign oil and the impact of revenue from increased oil production.

Publicly, the group focuses on a particularly local issue: oil seeps, natural emissions that leave a sheen on the ocean surface and balls of tar on the sandy beaches. Now named Stop Oil Seeps California, the group touts a 1999 University of California at Santa Barbara study suggesting that oil production could reduce the emissions by relieving pressure in undersea oil fields.

Deroy Murdock writing on NRO had more on this in July:

Ironically, in terms of oil contamination, Mother Nature is 95 times dirtier than man. Some 620,500 barrels of oil ooze organically from North America’s ocean floors each year. Compare this to the average 6,555 barrels that oil companies have spilled annually since 1998, according to MMS.

A new motto: Drill here. Drill now. Save Mother Nature from herself!

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