Even the early NASA photos etched a chilling picture of the scope of the British Petroleum oil spill. The scale of environmental damage is incalculable and even though the outpouring of oil and gas appears to have been at least temporarily stopped, the true cost of this mega-accident won't be known for decades.
The sane response, and the one presented by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is to immediately launch a nationwide initiative to switch to clean energy. An excerpt from his press release on the subject lays out the simple facts:
The simple truth is that we cannot drill our way to energy independence or lower gas prices. The United States uses roughly 25 percent of the world’s oil, 7.5 billion barrels per year, but we have only 2 to 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. Offshore drilling today provides roughly 10 percent of the oil we use in the United States. While we are all familiar with such political rhetoric, supported by the enormously profitable oil industry, as “drill here, drill now, pay less,” it’s just not accurate. The non-partisan Energy Information Administration has stated that opening new areas for offshore drilling would not save consumers a single penny per gallon until 2020, and would only save about 3 cents per gallon in 2030.
The alternative to continuing to risk catastrophe from offshore drilling is a bold and aggressive move to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Instead of saving a few pennies on the gallon by 2030 through more drilling, we can save far more with stronger fuel economy standards. Just by raising our fuel efficiency standards to 35.5 miles per gallon for cars and trucks, as President Obama is doing, we will save consumers a dollar per gallon of gas in 2030, and save so much oil that we will no longer need to import any from Saudi Arabia. We know we can do this because new cars sold in China today average more than 36 miles per gallon, and General Motors already sells nearly as many cars in China as in the United States.
If, as a nation, we are prepared to take bold action in energy efficiency, public transportation, advanced vehicle technologies, solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal, we can transform our energy system, clean up our environment, and create millions of new jobs in the process. This direction, and not more offshore drilling, is where we have got to go.
No more new offshore drilling. Not now! Not ever!