Want To Save the Environment? Support Offshore Drilling

Bethany Marcum Executive Director of the Alaska Policy Forum
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Several states are preparing to sue the federal government. They’re trying to halt Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s planned expansion of offshore oil and natural gas drilling. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the most vocal opponent of Sec. Zinke’s plan, claims the drilling “threatens our environment and our economy.”

He’s wrong on both counts. The proposal would create jobs for Americans and boost our economy while posing minimal risk to the environment. In fact, the plan would reduce overall carbon emissions by increasing production of natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal.

Under the plan, more than 90 percent of the U.S. outer continental shelf and 98 percent of resource-rich federal offshore areas would become available for new energy exploration projects. These areas are currently off limits.

From an economic standpoint, the plan is a no-brainer. Oil and natural gas production already supports 10.3 million jobs and adds $1.3 trillion to America’s economy, or about 8 percent of total GDP.

Opening up the continental shelf to energy exploration would send this economic activity into overdrive.

Drilling along the Pacific Coast could create over 300,000 jobs, generating $160 billion in new economic activity. Drilling off the Atlantic Coast, meanwhile, would create 265,000 jobs and contribute $260 billion to the economy. New drilling along the Eastern Gulf Coast and here in Alaska would generate billions more.

Opponents of the plan claim that offshore drilling would damage the environment and endanger coastal communities. Their fears are unfounded.

Offshore energy exploration is safer than ever. Oil and natural gas firms are constantly strengthening safety protocols to ensure minimal risk to the environment.

Since 2010, the industry has issued more than 100 new safety standards to prevent spills. Companies have also dedicated time and resources to containing potential accidents, working out cleanup procedures, and developing spill-resolution technology.

Right now, there are 25 separate projects underway across the industry dedicated to improving environmental management. These projects will speed up response times to any potential spills and refine common strategies for shoreline protection.

That’s on top of the broad changes the industry has made to drilling standards in the past decade. After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the industry doubled down on prevention. The Center for Offshore Safety, founded in 2011, is constantly developing new safety standards and best practices for environmental protection.

These efforts have drawn favorable attention from the federal government’s own Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which monitors gas and oil exploration. BSEE has already incorporated three guidelines developed by the Center for Offshore Safety into federal regulations.

Offshore energy exploration is actually good for the environment. Increased natural gas production has lowered carbon emissions by 14 percent since 2005.

Sec. Zinke’s coastal drilling plan hits a rare sweet spot: It will grow the economy, create jobs, and further reduce carbon emissions.

Bethany Marcum is the executive director of the Alaska Policy Forum.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.