Drilling more wells, this time in the oceans

Issue:  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on January 5, 2018, that 90% of the country’s coastal waters are now being considered for oil & gas drilling. The move reverses an Obama-era ban on drilling in U.S. coastal waters, as well as bans on offshore drilling in California and the Atlantic that go back decades. Submit your comment on this issue here.

Background text from the Sierra Club: In 2016, over 3.3 million people submitted public comments opposing the 2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program, and thousands of people attended public meetings to show their support for protecting our oceans, coasts, and climate. The draft proposal for 2019 to 2024 completely ignores what the public overwhelmingly supports — no offshore drilling. This decision also ignores permanent protections that exist for the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.

The previous administration did not propose drilling in the Pacific Ocean due to the steadfast opposition of western coastal states. Proposals for drilling in the Atlantic and the Arctic oceans were also dropped due to overwhelming opposition. This is true even in Republican-led states, like North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, where 90% of coastal cities passed resolutions against offshore drilling and/or seismic testing. Similarly, Shell gave up its plans to pursue oil in the Arctic because of the strong public opposition, extreme costs, risks, and difficulty of doing so.

The huge red-alarm elephant in the room on all media reporting regarding 45’s administrative attempts to give it all up to their BFFs (big fossil fuel) is that new drilling is going to ruin any good future for humans on earth, see text below:

Notes based on 2016 article by Bill McKibben:

Late 2016 math* on how much CO2 is currently available from coal, oil, and gas wells currently in operation: 942 gigatons.
There is a broad scientific consensus** that only 800 gigatons of CO2 can be released into the atmosphere to have a 2/3rd chance of staying below a 2 deg. Celsius increase in global temperature.

942 billion tons of CO2 in operating wells > 800 billion ton limit to keep below 2.0 deg. increase

COP 21 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) aimed to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Bill McKibben’s late 2016 article used 353 gigatons as the then-current CO2 budget necessary to stay within a 1.5 degree Celsius limit.**

942 billion tons of Co2 in operating wells > 353 billion ton limit to keep below 1.5 deg. increase

McKibben: “In the United States alone, the existing mines and oil wells and gas fields contain 86 billion tons of carbon emissions—enough to take us 25 percent of the way to a 1.5 degree rise in global temperature.”
|These numbers have shifted since late 2016, but the dynamic between fossil fuels in operating wells and allowable carbon budget has not shifted.

*Based on a report by Oil Change International, a Washington-based think tank, using data from the Norwegian energy consultants Rystad.

** IPCC, Global Carbon Project

Current Status: From EENews: Opponents include the governors of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon and Washington; more than 150 coastal municipalities; and an alliance of more than 41,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families.
It will take at least a year before any final decisions about leasing areas are finalized, the agency said. It noted that areas can be removed from the five-year plan, but not added. The release of the draft on Jan. 5 kicks off a 60-day public comment period. BOEM has scheduled 23 public meetings to gather in-person comment and will have to conduct a full environmental assessment.


The people who President Trump has chosen to surround himself with – Secretary of the Interior Zinke, Secretary of State Tillerson, EPA chief Pruitt, fracking billionaire Harold Hamm, Peabody Energy chief Gregory Boyce, etc., etc., promote themselves as great wealth creators. But the energy policies pushed by these administration industry insiders and industry moguls are crimes. These individuals and their co-conspirators are guilty of reckless profiteering as well as plundering. There is no safe oil-exploration path for the fossil fuel industries promoted by this administration to follow.

The American people successfully defeated the attempts of the last administration to plunder coastal waters. In 2015 Obama took steps to open up the Atlantic coastal waters to the oil industry. In 2015-2016, over 3.3 million people submitted public comments opposing the 2017-2022 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program, and thousands of people attended public meetings to show their support for protecting our oceans, coasts, and climate. The Atlantic magazine reported that one Pawleys Island, SC, resident, Peg Howell, helped to sound the alarm. A former manager of the daily operation of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, Howell knows that “pollution and harming the ocean environment was part of the cost of extracting oil and gas.” She followed the Deepwater Horizon accident and saw how British Petroleum did not take immediate responsibility for the environmental devastation. She stated “the oil business forever changes the environment, it forever changes the nature of work, it forever changes how people actually live in a place.”

Citizens and environmentalists won the Atlantic coast battle in 2015. The Obama administration offered new leases only in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaskan coast.

Now, again, we must fight to keep coastal waters from transformation into fossil fuel sacrifice zones.

The scientific consensus is that no new wells can be drilled if global warming is to be kept under two degrees Celsius. Access to coastal drilling means new expensive exploration followed by local ecological devastation and long term climate disaster.

As Bill McKibben explains, as of 2016 we had 942 billion tons of CO2 in operating wells. There is broad consensus (IPCC) that approximately 800 billion tons of CO2, extracted and dispersed into the atmosphere, is the limit to keep below a 2.0 deg. Celsius increase in temperature.

And 2.0 deg. Celsius is too much.

In order to limit extreme climate disaster, the 2016 COP22 conference determined that a global average temperature of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius will have catastrophic consequences for much of the world’s population. McKibben explains that only 353 billion tons of CO2 can be released into the atmosphere to meet that limit.

The United States alone already has 86 billion tons worth of carbon emissions in its existing mines, oil wells, and gas fields.

Climate science math is hard to translate into everyday concerns. But its logic is irrefutable; allowing the willful blindness of fossil fuel corporations freedom to continue business as usual will destroy the world we know.