2 Million Strong Take Action Against Offshore Oil Drilling

by Kristina Flores

February 3, 2016

Today, coastal communities and allies are delivering a message to the White House: keep oil rigs out of our oceans.

Offshore Drilling Petitions

A coalition of environmental groups held a rally before delivering 2 million petitions to the White House against offshore drilling and seismic testing.

© Robert Meyers / Greenpeace

No more offshore drilling: this is the demand of the 2 million people whose petitions are being delivered today at the White House. These signatures represent the voices of people impacted in our coastal communities and concerned citizens from across the country.

This Is More Than Just Another Call to Action

This is the coming together of individuals who have stepped up to protect our coasts and our climate by keeping fossil fuels safely in the ground.

Last year, I participated in the the fight to protect the Arctic with a powerful coalition of unrelenting community members. This incredible moment became part of the national conversation and helped drive Shell Oil out of the U.S. Arctic. Today, we are using that same momentum to draw attention to the coastal communities who are still at risk of experiencing the devastating impacts of offshore drilling.

Because ultimately, it will be coastal communities who are forced to bear the brunt of continued offshore drilling.

We already know communities like those along the Gulf Coast have endured immense devastation since the Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010. They have seen an additional 10,000 spills since then, and have watched the economic decline of vital industries such as fishing and tourism.

Despite the known consequences of offshore drilling, the southeast coast of the Atlantic Ocean could become a hub for offshore drilling in the next five years if a plan proposed by the Obama administration goes through.

Current reserve estimates in this region offer a potential 3 billion barrels of oil and another 25 trillion cubic feet of gas. If this potential is realized, Atlantic oil exploitation will move us in the wrong direction, away from the necessary carbon reductions required to prevent runaway climate change while putting coastal communities even more at risk.

This Is Something We Can’t Afford

For the sake of people, wildlife, and the climate, it’s crucial to keep the door closed on Atlantic drilling.

Leasing of the region has been scheduled for 2021, and the Obama administration is currently reviewing the permits of four geological surveying companies to conduct seismic testing in the area. The testing will map the actual amount oil and gas reserves in the Atlantic. To do this, a series of airguns will be used to produce pulses of sound so intense they’re capable of penetrating miles into the sea floor, bouncing back and creating images of oil and gas reserves.

Seismic testing in the Atlantic will not happen without incident.

Airgun blasts from these tests are so powerful they can cause significant harm to marine mammals, including hearing loss, mass beachings, and death. If the permits are approved, testing will likely occur 24/7 for months on end, possibly subjecting endangered species — like the right whale — to severe trauma and torture. And this is only the beginning of the negative impacts the Atlantic will face.  

The expected lease of the Atlantic is part of the Obama administration’s draft five-year outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing program, which also allows for more leasing in the Arctic as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Of these three regions, the Atlantic is the only one where oil and gas exploitation has not occurred previously. In fact, it’s been off limits for almost three decades.

With our planet so close to the tipping point of climate chaos, opening new areas to oil and gas exploitation is exactly the opposite of what President Obama said he would do to “lead the world to meet this threat.”

We Need Climate Action, and Fast

Just like a financial budget can keep us from going bankrupt, the Earth’s carbon budget represents the amount of greenhouse gases we can emit before triggering dangerous levels of global warming.

This isn’t news. The scientific community has been telling us that we’ve been blowing through this budget like a teenager with a credit card for years, already having burned more than 50 percent of it since the industrial revolution began. According to the same data, if we don’t change course soon we are expected to exceed this budget by 2045.

You don’t have to be an expert to understand 2021 will not be a good time to drill for more oil and gas. The fact of the matter is, oil production in the United States is going in the wrong direction: up when it desperately needs to go down.

The administration knows this. Upon returning to the United States after the Paris climate talks, President Obama acknowledged that we need to raise our ambitions to tackle climate change.

“Even if all the initial targets set in Paris are met, we’ll only be part of the way there when it comes to reducing carbon from the atmosphere. So we cannot be complacent because of today’s agreement,” he said.

Going forward with Atlantic exploitation is just that: complacent.

We need to be focusing on alternative forms of energy, not chasing down new oil and gas. If the Obama administration moves forward with Atlantic drilling, we’ll be trading a mere 155 days of oil for nearly 3 giga-tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.

That’s equivalent to the amount of carbon pollution released by 631 million cars in one year for less than half a year’s worth of oil.

That is madness!

Two million voices have been lifted today to secure the future of the Atlantic and all coastlines under threat of oil exploitation. It’s time the for Obama administration to close the door on offshore drilling for good.

Raise your voice: tell President Obama to keep ALL fossil fuels in the ground and follow through on his commitment to climate leadership.

Kristina Flores

By Kristina Flores

Kristina Flores is a research associate with Greenpeace USA.

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