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West Coast senators push Pacific shore drilling ban


Democratic senators from the California, Oregon and Washington state launched a new drive Tuesday to ban drilling off the Pacific coast but face long odds of getting the bill past the House’s new Republican majority, especially at a time of high gasoline prices.

The bill’s sponsors cited the economic and environmental risks of offshore drilling highlighted by last year’s Gulf of Mexico spill. “One of the lessons learned from the disastrous BP oil spill is that without a fundamental transformation of the oil industry, another spill is possible, even likely," said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), one of the sponsors.

A long-standing congressional ban on new Pacific offshore oil drilling expired in late 2008 as high gasoline prices became a hot political issue. Currently, the Pacific Coast is only protected by President Obama’s pledge that there will be no new offshore drilling, Cantwell said. The legislation, she said, would enact a permanent moratorium into law that could not be overturned at the whim of a future administration.

The bill could become part of an effort to pass new environmental safeguards for offshore drilling, a higher liability cap for spill damages and other measures in response to last year's spill. But even that effort has faced strong resistance in Congress from pro-production lawmakers who say it would increase U.S. dependence on foreign oil and threaten jobs.

Cantwell said, however: "More offshore drilling will not lower gasoline prices or reduce our nation’s dangerous overreliance on foreign oil, which is why we should be focusing on the promising clean energy alternatives that are better for consumers and can provide long-term sustainable solutions to America’s energy needs.”

“We cannot afford to put California’s coastal economy at risk by drilling offshore," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said in a statement.  

-- Richard Simon, in Washington

Photo: A Plains Exploration & Production Co. platform off California's shores. Credit: Chip Chipman / Bloomberg

Comments () | Archives (16)

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If we want to use the economic argument, what about the negative externalities (such as air pollution, impacts to health, etc.) associated with oil and gas that are not reflected in the price but are a cost to individuals and society. Or the value of ecosystem services that the coastline and ocean contributes to the economy (e.g. tourism, fishing, surfing, beach going, increased home values) or the opportunity cost...I don't know this exact number but I guarantee you that it is more money than the economic contribution of oil and gas. A spill would be catastrophic to the west coast economies...especially in California where a majority of the state's population lives.

I wonder what effect an earthquake would have on an oil well? After all, California's coast is extremely seismically active. I don't think the offshore environment on the west coast is very well suited for drilling -- the east coast is more passive and therefore more safe (although drilling is harmful everywhere, of course, and we should definitely be focusing on developing renewable energy sources).

I hope the West Coast senators will succeed in their aim of banning the drilling of the Pacific coast. It might post some risks like the BP Oil spill. And it's really very hard to take off the oil that are spilled off the ocean.

Obama is giving US tax dollars to Mexico and Brazil; to drill offshore, Im sure they will do a much better job of protecting the Pacific! When all of you are lined up for fuel you will be the first to blame these same politicians for the shortages. Now you want electric cars, but electricity comes from coal, hydropower and nuclear. Oh wait that is outlawed too! Of course we can buy it from Brazil. Maybe the Saudi's are backing the environmental movement?

If we force oil production over seas, we lose all control over the environmental impacts of that drilling. By keeping oil exploration within our boundaries, we have the ability, if properly regulated, to prevent or at least minimize accidents in the future.

Nuclear is a great option...but not for driving a car.

Hydrogen is a great option, but not for lubricating an engine (we could go back to whaling for that...kidding).

Biofuels are coming along but they currently impact the global food supply. When that changes, they could be viable.

Electric cars are coming along nicely. Try building one without the use of fossil fuels.

Try building that computer monitor you're reading this on without fossil fuels.

For now, we're dependent on that black stuff. Why not do our best to minimize the risk of environmental disaster while improving our national economy by regulating the industry and keeping it in the country while at the same time, working towards alternative energy...these things CANNOT be done separately.

Ridiculous. And those of you looking to force innovation by cutting supply clearly do not understand our economic model. We didn't switch from whale oil until natural oil was cheaper and more readily available. Innovation is constantly happening through competition. As technology improves oil will become less desireable. Until that point, why tie one of our hands behind our back? And if your argument is solely ecological, check yourself. Oil will be drilled. If it is not done here, it will be done in 3rd world countries with little to no regulation. That is a net ecological loss. Out of work families, seniors that can't afford heating oil, and "necessarily skyrocketing energy rates" (Obama's pre election quote) which disproportionately affect the lower class outrank potential pollution every time.

Its like trying to choose between two options, which one would be the lesser evil?

Can you say NUCLEAR??? WE NEED ENERGY - and NOT dependency on FOREIGN sources. If you don't like it - LEAVE!

brilliant! its not like the state of California needs any JOBS... and we all know how oil & gas only offer low paying, unskilled labor positions. Bringing in Petroleum engineers, geologist's an other professionals would only drive up the cost of housing. thank goodness the housing & commercial Real Estate market's are thriving due to all the fortune 500 companies flocking to our state.

We should be increasing the drilling. Nuff Said!

You clowns advocating for offshore drilling off the Pacific coast obviously weren't in California in 1969, when the Santa Barbara spill galvanized many into environmental awareness of the dangers of our non-renewable-resource dependence and the fragility of our ecosystems in the face of greedy resource extractors claiming inapplicable "supply and demand" arguments to justify their oil-sucking. Santa Barbara woke many Californians up in determining exactly what kind of environmental degradation we were willing to tolerate in exchange for so-called economic progress.


We need to find an alternative to this terrible black tar. We shouldn't be dependant on something so unsustainable. There are many alternatives to oil: vegetable oil, electricity, solar energy. Unless we invest in these greener methods of energy, we are doomed to more wars, more pollution, and higer energy prices.

"“We cannot afford to put California’s coastal economy at risk by drilling offshore," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said in a statement."
Yes, let's shift that risk to countries like Nigeria and those in the ME. What hypocrisy.

First of all, I understand supply and demand. I also understand general laziness and as long as we have oil we will continue to use it. "Necessity is the Mother of invention", as they say. Get rid of it and people will step up and quickly find an alternative for it.

Secondly, if we have a disaster on the west coast, too, the reality of supply and demand will show up in the cost of seafood (to say the very least) nationwide. Not to mention the gasoline price increases and major effect on tourism. None of which bothers to address all the wildlife and people who suffer when their bodies, homes and businesses are covered with oil.

Lastly, protecting our planet is the responsible thing to do. If being responsible was easy, we wouldn't have to teach it to our children. Let's act like grownups and stop crying "Me, me, me!" It is time to tackle the problem and stop putting it on a back burner like a fun project we work on over the weekends.

They either foul the Santa Barbara Channel or strip the Appalachian Mountains. No word from the Alaskan Senator.

And then they will 'itch and moan about high gasoline prices charged by the oil companies. I wish these "fine outstanding public servants" understood the laws of supply and demand. Supply needs to increase for prices to go down. Until a real alternative to gasoline is available for cars, we need to have oil under $90 a barrel.


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