May 25, 2010

"Spinning" energy in Virginia and elsewhere

“An event that will prove that oil and water really do mix?” Really? I thought it was a joke when I read that the 75th annual Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival (http://www.shrimp-petrofest.org) will take place as scheduled this upcoming Labor Day weekend in Morgan, Louisiana. This annual celebration includes a golf tournament (sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute), a blessing of the fleet (what fleet?) by the parish priest, and the coronation of the Shrimp and Petroleum king and queen (BP’s Tony Hayward perhaps?).

Oversight, anyone? MMS (Minerals Management Service) wasn’t in my vocabulary before the BP debacle. Now we know that it’s in the mix with EPA and the Coast Guard to handle these cleanups. But a “cozy” relationship with the oil industry should not be in the mix, when it comes to permits, safety, and environmental regs connected with offshore drilling. Sure hope that Obama’s bipartisan national commission to investigate what caused the devastating oil spill in the Gulf can figure out where the government went wrong so as to “make sure it never happens again.” Please don't get the spin doctors involved. I've already heard enough excuses to last me a lifetime--although Joe Lieberman's, "Accidents happen." was a doozy. Natural Resources Defense Council guru, Frances Beinecke, calls for guidelines for “whether, when, where and under what circumstances new offshore drilling operations should be allowed.”

Is offshore drilling off Virginia’s coast really on hold?
The Department of Defense provided the biggest obstacle last week when they called drilling off Virginia’s coast a “serious negative impact on U.S. national security.” In spite of Obama’s recent opening of the Virginia coast to offshore drilling (lease sale now on hold), the Navy has a different opinion. It seems that the Navy uses a huge chunk of this part of the ocean for training, flyovers, gunnery practice, and submarine training. So they’re calling it off-limits and leaving only 630,000 acres out of the original 2.9 million open to drilling. Does BP really want to argue with the guys on this "stealth ship" I recently saw at the Norfolk Navy Base?

Then there’s the toxic stuff (as in chemical weapons) that are still on the nearby ocean bottom that the Army dumped there from 1944 to 1970. Anyone want to drill into 64 million pouns on nerve and mustard gas, 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, or 500 tons of radioactive waste and stir it up?

Food for thought: Since only 1 percent of our electricity comes from oil, shouldn’t the U.S. spend more than $18 billion on research and investment in clean energy? China is spending more than $34 billion, if you want to make comparisons!