Just Leave the Damn Oil in the Ground

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Sarah Palin’s “drill, baby, drill” mantra seems all the more idiotic as we watch the environmental scoundrels at BP try to contain the disastrous oil spill they caused along the Gulf Coast (with, I should add, a little help from Dick Cheney’s greedy cohorts at Halliburton). 

“While this is a popular strategy among Republicans, Tea Partiers and Blue Dog Democrats, it is a terrible policy,” says Rafael Reuveny, PhD, a professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington. “It risks the health of America’s environment and, even more so, the global ecosystem.” 

Offshore drilling is growing costlier and more dangerous, Dr. Reuveny says. 

“We don’t even know how to solve the current problem in the Gulf,” he explains. “Offshore drilling pushes our technology and safety measures to the limit. The more we drill offshore and the deeper the sea bed is, the higher the risk of these catastrophes. It is a simple game of probability.” 

From Climate Change to Outright Violence 

Instead of weaning the planet off fossil fuels, the United States is escalating its dependence and accelerating climate change. 

“Climate change increases the frequency and intensity of weather disasters such as storms, floods and droughts,” says Dr. Reuveny, who coauthored Climatic Natural Disasters, Political Risk and International Trade in the May issue of Global Environmental Change. “As a result, these disasters have reduced foreign trade and investments and promoted waves of environmental refugees from poor, affected countries. In Arizona, the arrival of migrants has led to civil strife. In other cases, it has led to outright violence.” 

As the United States continues to increase carbon emissions, other countries must wonder why they should cap theirs, Dr. Reuveny says. 

Pursuing an Irrational Course 

President Obama’s initial executive order to continue offshore drilling, which he reversed by moratorium after the BP spill, “brings all of us closer to the brink of social collapse due to severe environmental decline, which has occurred many times throughout history,” Dr. Reuveny asserts. 

A better strategy is to preserve oil as an insurance plan for the future. 

“Leaving our oil in the ground is like an underwater bank with an outstanding interest rate as oil becomes increasingly scarce and its price rises,” he says. “In the meantime, we must invest in new technology and alternative energy sources. These are the ways to maintain our status as world leader. We will only self-destruct if we continue on this irrational course.” 

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