Environment

Despite Crushing Debt, Calif. Denies Offshore Oil Drilling

| by The Heartland Institute

By Brian Costin - Assistant Director, Government Relations

Even with one of the worst state economies in the nation, the California Assembly rejected a proposal to allow new oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara. The proposal, if passed, would have raised an estimated $100 million this fiscal year and an estimated $4 billion over the next decade. According to George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times, the $100 million generated this fiscal year "could have saved the parks ($14 million), the program for abused and neglected children ($80 million) and community services for the elderly, including Alzheimer's patients ($4 million)."

The proposed drilling also would have created many high-paying jobs for the region. California's unemployment rate is higher than the national average, at a staggering 11.5 percent. The plan also called for the donation of 200 acres of ocean-view property for use as public parkland.

Offshore oil drilling has a proven track record as a safe and effective means of acquiring energy. Oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico weathered hurricanes Katrina and Rita with little or no spillage, according to the National Ocean Industries Association. Moreover, the proposal for Santa Barbara called for slant drilling, which means no new platforms would have been needed.

Drilling would help clean up the coastline. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 60 percent of the oil found in the North American marine environment comes from natural seepage through the ocean floor. Only 1 percent comes from offshore oil and gas development. Drilling and removal of oil allows for less natural seepage, hence cleaner beaches and a cleaner marine environment.

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Offshore drilling and oil platforms also are more environmentally friendly than importing oil from other regions, as the proximity of the platforms to the U.S. mainland means less fuel is expended in transport. The platforms also support thriving ecosystems.

The citizens of Santa Barbara support more drilling, with 63 percent in favor of expanded drilling and just 29 percent opposed. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 55 percent of California voters favor drilling. In coastal counties, 51 percent of residents now favor drilling, compared to 36 percent two years ago.

The public support for drilling may explain why, in an unusual move, the Assembly chose to purge the voting record on this bill: All records of votes on this measure were erased from the official state database.

OpposingViews ask: Should California allow offshore oil drilling?