In a move that could rival the climate impacts of the Alberta tar sands and Keystone XL pipeline, and would release far more atmospheric carbon than that saved by the new EPA power plant and vehicle rules, the Obama administration just initiated its 2017-2022 process to expand oil and gas drilling on the nation’s outer continental shelf (OCS) – including the Arctic, Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico. The initial public comment period on the plan closes July 31, 2014.
Despite the fact that many of the 2011 National Oil Spill Commission’s recommendations to improve offshore drilling safety have yet to be implemented, and the certainty of more oil spills, this new leasing program would commit the nation to another 40 years of carbon-intensive energy that world climate cannot afford.
In addition to the proven offshore reserves already in production (currently providing 18% of domestic oil and 5% of domestic gas production), the government estimates that the U.S. OCS contains an additional 90 billion barrels of oil and 400 trillion cubic feet of natural gas yet to be discovered. Industry thinks there is more. History shows that once oil is discovered, it will be produced.
Burning this much oil and gas would release over 60 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere – a ‘carbon bomb’ almost as large as the entire Alberta tars sands. Just as with the tar sands (with 168 billion barrels of proven reserves), producing this U.S. offshore oil could be ‘game over’ for efforts to contain climate change. And this offshore carbon would dwarf the one or two billion tons of CO2 saved by the new power plant and vehicle rules by 2030.