Interior Secretary Donald Hodel's visit to the California coast will pour oil on troubled waters--figuratively speaking. Opposition to proposed offshore drilling has arisen from local elected officials of several coastal cities.
The reasons for opposition to proposed federal lease sales and the consequent construction of offshore drilling platforms are several: possibility of an oil spill, visual blight, insensitivity to local government, political chicanery and the autocratic position that the California coastal communities are energy colonies of the federal government.
Another reason for opposition is the need for an enlightened energy policy on the national level. This policy should explore alternative energy sources and conservation policies during a time of rapidly dwindling petroleum reserves. Consider these statistics:
- World estimated proven reserves (Jan. 1, 1984) were 669.3 billion barrels of oil. At the 1982 rate of consumption, proven reserves will be exhausted in 31.3 years.
- U.S. estimated proven reserves, including Alaska and the entire continental shelf, are 27.3 billion barrels of oil. At the 1982 rate of consumption, proven reserves would be exhausted in five years if we did not import foreign oil.
- It is estimated that the entire oil reserve of the California continental shelf is between 2 billion barrels (Department of Interior) and 5 billion barrels (Chevron). At the 1982 U.S. rate of consumption (14.9 million barrels per day), these reserves will fuel our national economy between a minimum of 131 days to a maximum of 332 days. One could speculate that oil reserves off the coast of Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach might fuel our economy for one Labor Day weekend.
There are three conclusions that can be drawn from the above statistics:
- Petroleum reserves will become scarce in the immediate future, therefore U.S. reserves should be saved for a time of severe shortage, rather than be produced at a time of market glut.
- Energy conservation should be an important and integral part of energy policy.
- Alternative energy sources, particularly renewable sources such as hydroelectric, geothermal and solar should be developed.
A Harvard Business School report on the energy problem concludes: "The nation has only two major energy alternatives for the rest of this century--to import more oil or to accelerate the development of conservation and solar energy. Conservation and solar energy, in our view, are much to be preferred."
It is a mistake to think that offshore oil production will give us independence from foreign oil sources. Rather, holding our national petroleum reserves for the future while embarking on a program of conservation and encouraging the development of alternative energy sources is the course of action that we must take to achieve national independence.
Green is a member of the Huntington Beach City Council.