Time to 'Get Oil Out!' from sea to shining sea

A Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) off the coast of Massachusetts, USA. Photo: chris buelow via Flickr (CC BY-NC).
A Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) off the coast of Massachusetts, USA. Photo: chris buelow via Flickr (CC BY-NC).
Faced with the double crisis of global warming and the decimation of marine wildlife, what does the Obama administration do? Open up the US's Atlantic and Arctic Ocean seafronts to oil and gas drilling, write Ralph Nader & David Helvarg. But this assault on our climate and cetaceans can be stopped, as a 'Sea Party Rebellion' prepares to fight it all the way in forthcoming Presidential elections.
The government itself estimates the oil and gas surveys could result in the 'take' (meaning anything from disturbance to deafening to death) of 138,000 marine mammals.

Gas is cheap. America is pumping more domestic oil than at any time in the last 30 years. But two newly released science reports have reached disturbing conclusions.

One in the journal Science, 'Marine defaunation: Animal loss in the global ocean', states that human activities threaten mass extinction of marine life in the ocean.

The other in the journal Nature, 'The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C', tells us that to avoid the most catastrophic effects of fossil fuel fired climate disruption we need to leave a third of the world's known petroleum reserves in the ground and under the seabed.

How then can it be, during the 5th anniversary of the catastrophic BP oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, that the Obama administration has filed a five-year drilling plan that could open up much of the populous Atlantic seaboard, along with the remote US Arctic Ocean, to offshore drilling beginning in 2017? Especially when so much energy is wasted daily.

Along with the climate and pollution threats, environmentalists and animal rights activists are also concerned about the high volume sonic cannons used to survey for oil.

Typically these 'air guns' emit ocean bottom penetrating sonic waves louder than dynamite explosions every 10 seconds for days or sometimes weeks at a time depending on the scope of the area being investigated.

Government estimates: 138,000 marine mammals will suffer

With much of the Atlantic's offshore waters being opened for potential oil exploration, including marine mammal migration routes, these surveys - that would take place between now and the proposed lease sales in 2017 - threaten the death or impairment of the nation's 450 remaining endangered Right whales, also orcas, dolphins and other wildlife.

The government itself estimates the surveys could result in the 'take' (meaning anything from disturbance to deafening to death) of 138,000 marine mammals.

Fish including edible commercial species, can also be impacted by this type of oceanic noise pollution, which is why commercial and recreational fishermen are some of the most outspoken opponents of the proposed new drilling. But they're not the only citizen voices being ignored as reflected by thousands of coastal citizens who have already turned out in opposition.

Has the United States government become so beholden and dependent on big oil and its green slick of campaign money that it's now coming to resemble petroleum dependent states like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia? If so, a rebellion to restore the blue in our red, white and blue is in order.

The Sea Party Coalition

The government itself estimates the oil and gas surveys could result in the 'take' (meaning anything from disturbance to deafening to death) of 138,000 marine mammals.

A Sea Party of activists, businesses and coastal communities committed to promoting the health and economic well-being of our public seas - while also championing clean energy, including offshore wind - could prove a strong unifying force between now and the 2016 presidential elections.

A Sea Party Coalition made up of marine conservation groups, fishermen, surfers, homeowners and others has already been launched.

Among its first actions was to raise the alarm (two if by sea) exposing a closed-door meeting on offshore drilling between North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, federal regulators from the Department of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and oil industry representatives late last year - a meeting from which citizens and the press were excluded. At the next public hearing drilling opponents chanted, "Just say No!"

Ocean advocates have rallied in Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and elsewhere and on May 13, as part of a national Blue Vision Summit citizens from more than 22 states will hold a Healthy Ocean Capitol Hill Day to meet with their elected representatives in Washington and insist on guarantees that our coastal economies and communities remain free of the threat of another BP type oil disaster and climate disruption.

New Jersey's congressional delegation has already taken a strong bipartisan stand against any offshore drilling that could impact their shoreline.

Can we stop it? Yes we will!

It's unfortunate that President Obama has adopted the 'all of the above' energy policy of his Republican opponents. But that doesn't mean new rigs off the Outer Banks, Charleston and Miami are inevitable.

The last time an offshore oil boom on this scale was attempted (under the Reagan administration back in the 1980s) broad based public opposition not only stopped it, but led to the creation of some of the nation's largest and most popular National Marine Sanctuaries (within whose borders drilling and dumping is forbidden).

You can now visit these national treasures and economic engines of tourism, recreation and real estate off California, Massachusetts and Florida. Now new marine sanctuaries are now being proposed off the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, the north coast of Florida and other regions presently slated for surveying, drilling and likely spilling.

The upcoming presidential election season will provide another great opportunity for Sea Party organizing. Activists are already sharpening their tridents. Expect to see costumed fish, oysters, polar bears with picket signs, militant mermaids, and oiled surfers (don't worry, it's really chocolate syrup) on the news and in your town.

They will be raising questions at town hall meetings and campaign rallies for the candidates not only in coastal primary states such as New Hampshire, California, North Carolina and Florida, but also in inland states like Iowa and Colorado - where the Colorado Ocean Coalition is already actively engaged in educating its elected officials.

As they said after the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 that helped launch the modern environmental movement, it's time to 'Get Oil Out!' from sea to shining sea.



Ralph Nader's latest book is: 'Unstoppable: the Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State'.

David Helvarg is President of Blue Frontier.

More information: bluefront.org.

This article was originally published on CounterPunch.

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