Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, like most of the other Democratic presidential candidates, is going all-in on a version of the Green New Deal that would end the fossil fuel industry by a date certain. Toward that end, he has urged the House to pass a proposed law that would prohibit offshore drilling in the Atlantic and the Pacific. According to CNN:
“The former congressman from Texas is asking members of Congress to pass South Carolina Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham’s Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, which would place a moratorium on offshore drilling and prohibit the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management from offering any new tracts for oil and gas leasing or preleasing off the California, Oregon and Washington state coastline and the Atlantic Coast.
“Offshore drilling is a key political issue in South Carolina, an early voting state. A number of 2020 Democratic candidates have staked out their opposition to it as they try to make headway in the state. O’Rourke, who has made five trips to South Carolina since announcing his candidacy, has previously stated his opposition, including at last week’s CNN climate town hall.
“Cunningham represents the coastal 1st Congressional District in the Palmetto State and his opposition to offshore drilling was a major factor in the 2018 election when he flipped a seat that had been held by a Republican since 1981.”
The proposed act has but one, long sentence. “This bill prohibits the Department of the Interior from offering any tract for oil and gas leasing or preleasing in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf planning area (North Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and the Straits of Florida) or the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf planning area (Washington/Oregon, Northern California, Central California, and Southern California)”
The bill and O’Rourke’s support of it represents the latest volley in a decade’s long war to attempt to expand offshore drilling from the Gulf of Mexico and the waters off Alaska to other coastlines of the United States. President Barack Obama had issued an executive order banning drilling in millions of acres in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, signed his EO that would develop a plan to exploit offshore oil reserves in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Trump’s initiative to increase offshore drilling has elicited both political and legal opposition.
Why all the controversy? How Stuff Works explains:
“A large part of the controversy stems from differing estimates of what increased offshore drilling would actually mean — to both the economy and the environment. Proponents of drilling insist that increasing domestic production along the coasts would lower gas prices and diminish the country’s reliance on foreign oil with little negative impact on the environment. Detractors argue just as strongly that any oil found would have a minimal impact on prices and domestic supply, and would devastate surrounding ecosystems.”
In other words, one’s view of offshore drilling depends on what one’s priorities are. The controversy predates the debate on climate change and focuses on the potential of an accident on an offshore well – the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster comes to mind – would have on the ocean and coastline environment. The infrastructure needed to transport the oil has also garnered some scrutiny.
With climate change becoming an overwhelming issue among Democrats along with plans to end fossil fuels, the environmental lobby is stepping up efforts to stop the expansion of offshore oil drilling. Those who care more about the production of new sources of energy, such as President Trump, are pushing back to expand more areas to drilling.
Ironically, another form of offshore energy, wind power, has also run into opposition from environmental groups and NIMBY tendencies from local communities. The most famous controversy involved the proposed Cape Windfarm, which would have placed wind turbines off the shore of Cape Cod.
The project, first proposed in 2001, ran into spirited opposition from locals, including the late Sen Teddy Kennedy, mainly on aesthetic grounds. The turbines would spoil the view of the ocean, in the view of many. Even though the Cape Wind project would have created abundant renewable energy, it is currently moribund, according to the New York Times.
Thus. Beto or any Democrat who might be elected president would have a heavy lift creating enough renewable energy to replace fossil fuels.