Labor, environmentalists: Offshore drilling is just a profit scam

The proposal by President Bush and Sen. John McCain to lift the federal ban on offshore oil drilling will do nothing to reduce gasoline prices but will risk permanent damage to the coastal waters and marine wildlife, according to environmentalists and energy experts.

Bush made the proposal June 19. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, earlier made the same proposal to open the way for drilling off the coasts of Alaska, California, Florida and other states where a ban on the practice has been in effect. They claimed pumping offshore crude will provide relief for motorists hammered with gasoline prices zooming toward $5 per gallon.

Tim Hamilton, president of the Automotive United Trade Association (AUTO), a group of 600 independent gas station owners in Washington State, told the World Bush’s proposal is just another giveaway to the Big Oil profiteers.

“Herein lies the Big Lie: That you can drill in the arctic, drill in offshore coastal waters and it will lower the price at the pump,” Hamilton said. “It is a Big Lie because Big Oil already has leases offshore and in Alaska that they are not drilling now.” The real aim of Bush’s proposal, he said, “is to get these leases signed and sealed now while they have the friendliest president in American history in the White House. These are resources that belong to the American people. This is a war between a handful of oil companies and the American people.”

In 2006, Hamilton wrote a report, “Why Gasoline Prices are Headed for $3.50 At the Pump.” Now, he said, gas prices are headed toward $5 per gallon with retailers getting only a miniscule 16 cents per gallon. The winner, he said, “is an illegal, immoral cartel whose only concern is maximum profits.”

Democratic lawmakers convened a Capitol Hill news conference June 19 to unveil their “use it or lose it” bill to force oil companies to either drill for oil on the 68 million acres of lands they already lease from the federal government or lose those leases. Speaking in Las Vegas June 24 Obama strongly endorsed the legislation.

Melanie Duchin, a Greenpeace campaigner in Anchorage, Alaska, told the World in a telephone interview, “The Bush administration refuses to do the math. We burn 24 percent of the world’s oil yet we only have three percent of the world’s oil reserves. Even if we drilled every last drop of oil in this country, we could never drill our way to lower gasoline prices. This is just smoke and mirrors to line the pockets of the oil companies.”

The Greenpeace web site features photos of Duchin helping in the cleanup from the shipwreck of a Malaysian freighter that fouled a pristine stretch of the Alaskan shoreline with thousands of gallons of oil.

Duchin helped spearhead the drive that forced the Interior Department to declare the polar bear “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. It was a step forward, but short of a victory, she said. The polar bear should be designated as “endangered,” she said.

Duchin decried the plight of Arctic wildlife as the permafrost melts, the ice sheet and glaciers retreat, and forests are decimated by the spruce beetle. Entire villages of the native peoples of Alaska are swallowed by rising sea levels, she said.

“This is an issue of environmental justice. Poor people and people of color bear a disproportionate share of the burden from global climate change. We are at ground zero in a global war.”

The answer, she said is shifting to renewable forms of energy like wind and solar power. Sierra Club President Carl Pope responded by announcing his organization’s endorsement of Democrat Barack Obama at a June 19 news conference in Cleveland. Pope and Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, stood together in front of a giant wind turbine at the joint news conference. Pope said they believe Obama “will put America on the path to a clean energy economy that will create and keep millions of jobs, spur innovation and opportunity, make us a more secure nation and help us solve global warming.” Gerard said the USWA and the Sierra Club “are standing together in support of Barack Obama because we all share the common goal of putting America back to work by building a clean energy economy.”

The Sierra Club began running a radio ad across Ohio blasting McCain. “Fact is, John McCain opposes requiring the use of more wind and solar power to generate electricity,” the announcer says. “He argued against incentives for the clean energy industry while demanding billions in subsidies for nuclear power and refusing to impose windfall profits taxes on Big Oil.”

Earlier, the Sierra Club blasted the Bush-McCain offshore drilling scheme. “The truth is that drilling our coasts will not solve our energy problems,” Pope said. “An offshore spill off the coast of Virginia would impact beaches, marine life, and tourism in New Jersey. Lifting the ban would do nothing to reduce gas prices for the average American family. It would take a decade to bring new leases into production and then they would only line the coffers of the oil industry which raked in tens of billions of dollars in record profits last year.”