July 27, 2012

Drilling offshore Virginia?

I have seen too many oil spills in my lifetime to trust offshore drilling off Virginia's coast. I know, I know, the "Drill baby, drill" folks say that means jillions of lost jobs in Virginia.

Maybe they are referring to the thousands of jobs created by the BP oil spill just a few years ago? Or perhaps they mean the thousands of man hours spent cleaning the beaches in Santa Barbara, California after the big oil tanker spill there. I got tar balls on my feet not only from that one, but a later one off Palm Beach, Florida. Do Virginia Beach vacationers really want that experience?

In my former posting, I referred to the lack of guarantees from corporations. The Chesapeake Bay is too near and dear to my heart to threaten it further. I just re-watched the 2009 Frontline special "Poisoned Waters" last night and was amazed that the dire state of the Chesapeake just three years ago has improved so much, thanks to a renewed effort by the EPA and the bay states to face the music. And we still have so far to go before I'll allow my grandsons to wade in the James River without a quick shower shortly after.

Voluntary efforts to cut back on pollution just don't work. Regulation and enforcement do. But in recent years the word "regulation" makes a lot of folks red in the face. But who other than government will force polluters to regulate their waste. The Eastern Shore chicken farms certainly were not doing it on their own. The Baltimore sewage treatment plant wasn't improving their discharged water with less regulation. Farmers were not putting up fences to keep their cows out of streams without an incentive. Chemical plants on the James River discharged kepone and allowed a giant fish kill before regulations.

So don't yell and scream "Drill baby, drill" and expect me to not get red in the face. This political season has hardly begun and I'm sickened by the lies and distortions from both sides of the aisle. But that Shell Oil ship that narrowly missed running aground off Alaska last week confirmed that my fears are not imagined. Human error, whether related to profits or not, scares me more than relying on foreign oil.

So what's the answer? Pursuing a portfolio of renewable energy options to satisfy Virginia's need for power through 2035 would create tens of thousands of jobs, according to an April George Mason university study.