Is seismic testing, drilling for oil necessary?

  • Thursday, August 14, 2014

To the Editor:

The arguments for and against these subjects are as polarized as the debates going on in Washington about any number of issues.

Proponents of seismic testing and oil exploration argue that our natural assets must be quantified and utilized.

They further argue that it would be criminal to ignore those assets and continue depending on foreign oil to fuel the nation.

These thoughts do find sympathy amongst conservative, common sense thinkers, no matter how anti- quated they might be. These folks want things to stay as they are – no matter how much the science, the facts and the truth would lead them to rethink their position.

Thinkers like this are dangerous – and when they ignore the science, ignore the facts and ignore the truth they are really thinking quite radically – not conservatively.

They are putting corporate and shareholder profits at the top of their list of priorities. They are thinking and talking about the perceived access to the big bucks they think will flow if the oil industry sets up shop in our area. They are thinking about the influx of jobs without weighing the consequences.

On the other hand, the far left is chiming in with a bunch of hyperbole and worst case scenarios, which they claim will ruin our water quality, kill and maim wildlife and wreck our tourism business.

Some of what they say is likely and accurate – but they go too far in making their points. They should stick to the historical application of the negative effects of the oil industry which have, in fact, occurred.

That is really all they need to make their case.

If you read the thoughts expressed by the two sides there are statements and figures quoted that are so far apart and thoroughly divorced from the historical realities of the issue.

Each side has what they consider to be valid counterpoints to what the other side is saying.

The facts dictate that (even if the oil industry was allowed to proceed) no drilling can occur in the Atlantic until 2017. So, we have time – lots of it. This is a clear cut example of where the- “Precautionary Principle” should be exercised.

The Precautionary Principle is defined thusly: “When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm.”

This is the mindset applied by virtually all game and wildlife agencies, regulatory entities, etc. when it comes to managing our natural assets.

i.e. – our commercial fishermen have been and are being heavily regulated right now by the Precautionary Principle because conservative lawmakers won’t fund real time quantification of those resources.

The “best available science” is way out of date – so precautionary regulations were put in place to protect the resources – even though little or no real time science existed to justify them.

Why shouldn’t the same principle be applied when it comes to Atlantic drilling?

With several years between proposed seismic testing and the actual application of the knowledge gained from these tests, we have plenty of time to order an Environmental Impact Statement – which would seem to be mandated by NEPA standards anyway.

Unfortunately, Big Oil means a lot more to lawmakers than the plight of working class fishermen and shrimpers and clammers and crabbers and oystermen and charter boat operators and recreational fishermen and eco tours and the industries that support them.

Big Oil gets special treatment. We don’t – unless – the public rises up and demands that the oil and gas industry be regulated by the Precautionary Principle – like we are.

These seismic tests are described by oil industry studies to have “little to moderate” effect on wildlife. Environmental and Fishing Industry studies show exactly the opposite. So why not do an Environmental Impact Study and find out for sure who is right?

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that these seismic airguns firing day and night, every few seconds for weeks on end at a 250 decibel level will have more than “little to moderate” effect on wildlife.

In comparison, a loud motorcycle produces 100 decibels of sound – a jet airplane engine 140.

Beyond the seismic testing issue are more important questions: The USA is quickly positioning itself to be the world leader in fossil fuel extraction (with other controversial practices) on land. Do we even need to go to the ocean at this point?

The United States is now exporting more processed petroleum products than ever – three times more than we were in 2000.

Why are offshore drilling advocates claiming we will lower our dependency on foreign oil by drilling offshore?

Why are Republican lawmakers trying to lift the ban on exporting USA crude when they claim to be so concerned about energy independence?

Why are they saying our prices will go down at the pump if we drill offshore – when that has never occurred?

Why are we not moving with vigor to (cleaner/cheaper) alternative fuels and energy sources for our future generations?

Why do our leaders cater so to Big Oil and disregard this need?

We have known we had to do it for 50 years. We put a man on the moon 10 years after we decided to do it.

It does not take very much imagination to comprehend why Big Oil is so powerful.

Our leaders should know that we are resolute in opposing these activities. According to the Congressional Research Service there are 55,485 ocean based recreational tourism jobs in South Carolina. There are 5035 jobs involved in charter fishing and 1169 in commercial fishing.

We need to protect those jobs and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that rely on clean water and beaches.

If we stand up for these beliefs, there is nothing Big Oil can produce to argue with us – except more of the money we give them at the pump – to lobby for their best interests.

Those best interests do not include lowering our price at the pump or reducing our dependence on foreign oil. They are solely dedicated to corporate and shareholder profits.

Rick Baumann

Murrells Inlet

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