Efforts to block offshore drilling ultimately harm climate change fight
This week, the House of Representatives will consider two bills that would significantly curtail domestic offshore oil and gas exploration. H.R. 1941, “the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act,” and H.R. 205, “the Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019” reflect a lack of understanding about where our energy comes from and how we solve the climate crisis.
In the early 2000s, high prices per barrel of crude oil and dwindling petroleum reserves created real concerns about domestic energy security. By 2015, U.S. output more than doubled. This growth resulted from two production sources: (1) the shale revolution and (2) exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), which accounts for nearly 20 percent of domestic oil production in a given year. This energy security serves a critical need in both domestic and foreign policy matters.
Opponents of offshore drilling cite the need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in their calls for a ban on exploration of the OCS. As members of Congress representing districts along the Gulf of Mexico that have been ravaged by storms made worse by a changing climate, we understand all too well the need to address climate change and reduce GHG emissions. In 2016, the Obama administration Bureau of Ocean Energy Management found when analyzing lifecycle GHG emissions that “in the absence of new OCS leasing,” emissions could actually increase from reliance on foreign sources of oil and gas. In 2018, oil and natural gas supplied 67 percent of the energy Americans used. In other words, our concern is that these bills will result in greater GHG emissions and further threaten the environment due to the risks associated with the transportation of fuels.
Offshore drilling isn’t just about energy security. It also funds conservation efforts on shore. Royalties pay, in large part, for some of our most treasured conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Banning OCS drilling is not the way to do that. Annually, over $1 billion generated from offshore oil and gas production is dedicated to the LWCF with the undedicated revenues going to the Treasury to fund various social programs and research initiatives.
While we agree that climate change needs to be addressed by innovative solutions and commitments from a broad array of stakeholders, these bills will only make the situation worse: increasing emissions, decreasing revenues, and reducing energy security. This outcome we cannot afford.
Fletcher represents the 7th District in Texas and is the chairwoman of the Science Subcommittee on Environment. Graves represents the 6th District in Louisiana and is ranking member of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and is a member of the Natural Resources Committee.