A Philosopher's Blog

Tarballs on the Beach

Posted in Environment, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on June 27, 2008

As I write, oil is climbing towards $150 per barrel. In response, Bush has suggested various solutions to the problem of foreign oil. One of these is to open the coast of Florida to offshore drilling.

Oil WellThere are some good arguments in favor of allowing this drilling. First, the technology for off shore drilling is well-established and many rigs are currently operating around the world. Hence, setting up rigs off the coast of Florida would be easy enough. Second, the United States economy would benefit from having a new supply of domestic oil. Third, America would be less dependent on foreign oil and this would be a political asset.  Fourth, Chuck Norris is backing it. Presumably, he will personally drive in the first drill using his fist.

There are, however, good arguments against drilling off the shore of Florida.

First, there is the fact that a considerable amount of trash and pollution come from offshore platforms. The trash and pollution will end up on Florida’s beaches. As I can attest, Florida has truly spectacular beaches. In fact, it is estimated that the beaches help generate  the $50 billion a year tourist industry in the state. Obviously, if the beaches started getting trashy, tourism would suffer.

Second, there is the obvious risk of oil spills. While the technology on oil rigs has improved, there have been 239,000 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico between 1973 and 2001. The United States Coast Guard reports on these spills-an axample is here. Such oil spills are environmentally dangerous and are devastating to tourism dollars. For example, a 1979 oil spill in the Gulf reduced tourism in Texas by 60%.

It might be objected that major spills are unlikely and that the smaller spills are not that damaging. In reply, the evidence is that even the smaller spills are harmful to beaches and the environment.  Also, think about the storms that are so common around Florida. It is easy enough to imagine the effects of such storms on offshore platforms.

Third, exploiting the oil off the coast of Florida will take a considerable amount of time and resources. As such, this strategy will not impact oil and gas prices now. It seems more sensible to use the time and resources to develop alternative power sources that will not put the environment (and $50 billion in tourist dollars) at risk.

I am against drilling off the coast of Florida. I freely admit that my motivation is partially selfish. I prefer my beaches free of debris and tar balls. Also, I teach at a State University and those tourist dollars help provide the budget money for my school. My smart ass advice to people who want to drill: run more and drive less, bitches.


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