Drilling off New England coast is a nonstarter

Published on Monday, 12 March 2018 20:24
Written by the Providence (RI) Journal

Citizens in large numbers, including in Rhode Island, have protested President Trump’s plan to open the nation’s coastal waters to offshore drilling.

We’re with them. An oil spill off the coast of Rhode Island would deal a terrible blow both to the state’s fragile ecosystems and its economy, which depends on tourism.

On top of that, such drilling is not even needed. The United States, thanks to ingenious advances in the ability to extract oil and gas from the ground through fracking, is already producing these fossil fuels at near-record levels, with far less risk and cost than offshore drilling requires.

At the same time, the steady development of less polluting sources of energy should pay off in the not-too-distant future in requiring less extraction of fossil fuels.

All this makes the president’s proposed reversal of an Obama-era order that placed 94 percent of the outer continental shelf off-limits to drilling seem more symbolic than substantive.

To be sure, a strong energy industry benefits America’s workers and economy. Domestic production also means the U.S. is less dependent on other nations, including deeply corrupt regimes and geopolitical enemies.

History shows us that depending on other nations for energy needs is fraught with peril - witness the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, directed at nations that were seen as supporting Israel during that year’s Yom Kippur War; and more recently, Russia’s threat in 2014 to cut off oil and gas sales to Europe to mute criticism of its seizure of Crimea.

But that does not mean it makes any economic or political sense to find and extract oil along the nation’s outer continental shelf.

Those who love the beauty of Rhode Island should make it loud and clear to the federal government that offshore drilling anywhere off the southern New England coast is a nonstarter.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Editorials on Monday, 12 March 2018 20:24. Updated: Monday, 12 March 2018 20:27.