After decades of paranoid hemming and hawing, last month the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management finally approved oil exploration in Federal waters along the Atlantic coast from Delaware to Florida.
‘The announcement is the first real step toward what could be a transformation in coastal states,” says the Associated Press report, “creating thousands of jobs to support a new energy infrastructure. But it dismayed environmentalists and people who owe their livelihoods to fisheries and tourism.”
Alas, this “dismay” afflicts only the greenies from Delaware to Florida. From New Jersey up through New England the greenie hysteria against offshore oil exploration prevailed. This superstition among the local worshippers of Earth Goddess Gaia proved as intractable as the one that once mandated burning witches by New Englanders no less “enlightened.”
“With today’s decision,” whined Claire Douglass, campaign director at the environmental group Oceana, “President Obama is bowing to pressure from Big Oil rather than listening to the thousands of voices calling on him to protect our natural resources and coastal economies.”
Well, allow me to present the call of “thousands of voices” and specifically from “people who owe their livelihoods to fisheries and tourism.” Their call, based on over half a century of experience with offshore oil production (including the ultimate test: the BP Oil Spill!) says: “Drill, Baby, Drill!”
With over 3000 of the 3,700 offshore oil and gas production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico off her coast, Louisiana provides almost a third of North America’s commercial fisheries. As a trivial sideline these oil production platforms also extract 80 percent of the oil and 72 percent of the natural gas produced in the Continental U.S. This “sideline” (as us fanatical fishermen see it) by itself would offset the hardships (in any rational calculation of national priorities) of the relatively few “people who owe their livelihoods to fisheries and tourism.”
But a study by LSU’s sea grant college found that majority of Louisiana’s offshore fishing trips (among the state’s top tourist attractions) target these structures. Recreational fishing and diving trips to these structures generate an estimated 5,560 full time jobs and $324 million annually for Louisiana.
“Oil platforms as artificial reefs support fish densities 10 to 100 times that of adjacent sand and mud bottom, and almost always exceed fish densities found at both adjacent artificial reefs of other types and natural hard bottom,” says a study by Dr Bob Shipp, professor at the Marine Sciences department of the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama, and currently, the vice-chair of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council.
In fact, the most prolific and diverse marine ecosystem ever recorded by marine scientists was created by offshore oil production. Acting as artificial reefs over the past half century, the teeming fish life, coral colonies, and “bio-diversity,” created by offshore oil platforms is amply documented in several studies commissioned by none other than the U.S. Dept. of the Interior.
One recent report by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Minerals (a division of the U.S. Dept.