Obama's Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, came to New Orleans yesterday on his four stop tour to present a plan for energy development along the Outer Continental Shelf.
I found the meeting very disappointing for several reasons, some of which you can read here in my report: Interior Dept. Hearing - Opening vast new portions of the Gulf to oil and gas drilling.
My biggest problem with this whole process is what I see as the political strategy behind the Obama administration's listening tour. It appeared to me yesterday that Salazar is making the rounds to placate environmentalists who are rightfully concerned about expansion of oil and gas drilling along the OCS, but that this is in order to diffuse any possible opposition to so-called "renewable" energy developments.
Who on earth would be against wind farms and ocean current turbines, you ask? Well I am, but I'll get to this in a second. First the plan from Salazar as far as I can tell;
1. Embrace the lifting of the OCS ban, which occurred under Bush, in spite of the opposition of everyone from enviros to CA Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
2. Write up a rushed "study." Call it, "Survey of Available Data on OCS Resources and Identification of Data Gaps." In it, emphasize oil and gas, but also "renewables" such as wind, ocean current and tidal energy that can be harvested in OCS areas.
3. Go on a tour of each coast that will be affected by new raids of the OCS - Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast, West Coast, Alaska. Listen to the various "stakeholders."
4. Emphasize that "the administration is embracing a diverse portfolio of energy sources," from oil, gas, and coal - Salazar said yesterday that "clean coal... coal must have a seat at the table" - to nuclear energy. Of course so-called "green" energies like wind, solar, and biofuels are included. They are rhetorically prominent, but budgetary junior partners to the big boy hydrocarbons and nukes.
5. Scare the greens in New York and California with the prospect that their coast lines might be opened to oil and gas drilling.
6. With the East and Left Coast Liberals opposed to expanding oil and gas leases, offer instead vast wind farm, tidal generators, and current turbine projects along these OCS regions. Build these mega-projects to generate many gigawatts of electricity.
7. The two OCS regions that really matter to the oil and gas lobbies get opened up and a new boom ensues - the Eastern Gulf near Florida which is currently closed, and parts of Alaska, areas with immense fossil fuel deposits. All of this happens with very little opposition from national environmental groups. Why? Because of the "balanced portfolio" with "green" projects being built in California, Oregon, D.C. and Boston. Voila!
The end result?
The result could very well be a worst case scenario. Not only will the most major oil and gas deposits be opened up to exploitation by oil and gas corporations, thus further feeding climate change, but massive "green" and "renewable" energy projects will rise along the East and West Coasts.
So how on earth is it that I'm opposed to "green" and "renewable" energy development? Why do I keep putting these words in quotation marks?
In truth there is nothing green about wind farm arrays and tidal generators the size and nature which of which are currently being designed and contemplated along the OCS. We're talking about huge industrial operations with major ocean bottom footprints, surface water footprints, and atmospheric footprints. These projects will undoubtedly have negative consequences for ocean life, from whales to plankton. There is nothing "green" about any of this except that these projects will, once in place, emit less carbon into the atmosphere than hydrocarbon projects.
Furthermore, these kinds of projects do nothing to address one of the most critical issues of energy: decentralization and localization. Without decentralizing the ways we produce energy, and relocating production closer to the point of consumption, we are simply carrying on the ecologically destructive and economically dangerous status quo. We're encouraging energy development by transnational corporations and investment banks for their profit instead of fostering community self-reliance and control over energy.
The kicker to Salazar's plan seems to be that the areas of the OCS where the major oil and gas actually does lie - Gulf of Mexico and Alaska - is where Interior will be moving ahead full steam to sign lease agreements. Drill baby, drill! So we're likely to get the worst possible solution. More carbon-based energy development plus pseudo-green projects that may simultaneously palliate the public and do great damage to marine ecosystems.
Salazar's next stop is Alaska. Then it's on to San Francisco:
When: Thursday, April 16, 2009My advice to those who care to find a better solution? Oppose all oil and gas drilling in all federal OCS territories, not just your local coastline. And go much further; attack the idea that these "renewable" projects are appropriate in their size and design. If we are serious about dealing with the ecological crisis we have precipitated we should be withdrawing our destructive presence from the oceans, not expanding them. Demand a more decentralized and localized energy plan from the administration. This might mean moving away from the Interior Department as a broker of resources. The era of the US government selling off our sacred forests, mountains, rivers and oceans for corporations profit and consumer pleasure must end.
Doors open at 8 AM, event begins at 9 AM
Where: Mission Bay Conference Center at UCSF
1675 Owens Street
San Francisco, CA