Protect Our National Parks from Drilling

Drawing a line in the sand at the Biloxi rally. Photo Courtesy of Jordan Macha/Sierra Club. On I joined concerned citizens and members of the 12 Miles South Coalition at a press conference and rally across the street from the Gulf Coast Energy Summit in Biloxi, Mississippi. This summit was a half-day dog and pony show put on by oil and gas industry front groups to promote drilling and energy development anywhere and everywhere. Oddly, most of the speakers at the conference, including presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, seemed to have amnesia when it comes to the BP disaster and the tar balls and dolphins still washing up on our shores, the continued health problems of coastal residents, and the Gulf fishermen who are struggling to make a living.According to a recent article from the Institute for Southern Studies, the BP disaster only came up twice in the first 19 Republican presidential debates, and President Obama mentioned the BP disaster in his State of the Union address “only briefly…and he softened that mention with a joke.” It seems like both sides of the political aisle are suffering from significant memory problems when it comes to the real environmental and economic consequences of unbridled and poorly regulated offshore drilling.In Mississippi, this willful amnesia has led to a headlong rush to start drilling in state waters within just a mile of Gulf Islands National Seashore, a national park that includes the state’s wilderness barrier islands. Offshore drilling shouldn’t come at the expense of other industries like tourism and fishing and our national parks, and that’s exactly what this proposal would do! We need your support to help protect these amazing and wild barrier islands, click here to donate.Photo Courtesy Jordan Macha/Sierra Club.One of central arguments of speakers at the Summit, and many other politicians, pundits, and oil and gas industry flacks is that expanding drilling into sensitive areas currently closed would lower prices at the pump. That is patently false.In the case of Mississippi, experts say there is little to no oil in Mississippi’s waters and only a very small reserve of natural gas. Drilling for natural gas isn’t going to make a lick of difference when it comes to prices at the pump, and with natural gas prices at 10 year lows and the United States set to start exporting natural gas, it’s not going to make any significant difference on anyone’s heating bills either.On the national level, adopting a “drill baby drill” energy policy would have almost no impact on gas prices. The price of oil is based on the global market and no matter how much we ramp up production, the United States simply does not have enough oil to make a big impact on global prices. The fact is, according to Bloomberg News, the “U.S. exported more gasoline, diesel and other fuels than it imported in 2011 for the first time since 1949.” The United States has been ramping up production of oil consistently since 2004, but, with the global market setting prices based on factors we can’t control, this has little to no impact on prices at the pump (read more about what influences gas prices here). That fact hasn’t stopped energy industry representatives, and industry funded front groups from pushing to open up drilling around pristine areas like Florida’s sandy beaches, and Mississippi’s wilderness barrier islands. From the ongoing impacts of the BP disaster to wetlands loss in Louisiana from oil and gas activity, the Gulf of Mexico has long been the nation’s energy sacrifice zone. As one of our members in Mississippi recently told me, “We already do our part for the nation’s energy, but it’s time to draw a line in the sand. Why can’t we even have this small area around our islands and the national park free from the rigs, platforms, and pollution?” Help us draw that line in the sand by donating today.Raleigh Hoke is GRN’s Mississippi Organizer.

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