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Should the U.S. Halt Offshore Drilling?

April's massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico is forcing a close look at the costs and benefits of offshore drilling

The U.S. should halt all new offshore drilling and oil exploration until the American people and the government have a full understanding of the causes and ramifications of the Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster.

Existing plans to move ahead with offshore drilling were based on the assumption that a serious oil spill was nearly impossible. That assumption was wrong—and disasters like the oil spill in the Gulf do not have to be the price we pay for filling up our gas tanks.

The catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico has made it painfully clear that we still do not know how to adequately protect our communities and coastlines from the worst impacts of offshore drilling accidents. And until we do, it would be beyond reckless to continue expanding offshore drilling and putting our beaches and coastal economies at risk.

If we want prosperity and energy security, more drilling is not the answer: Americans consume more than 25 percent of the oil produced in the world, but our nation holds less than 3 percent of the world's proven oil reserves. Digging deeper wells that will someday run dry is not the solution.

We need to create a clean energy future for ourselves. We need to increase energy efficiency, invest more in renewable energy, support smart policies that will spur innovation in the clean-tech sector, and end our dependence on oil. And we need to harness American innovation and ingenuity as we have so many times before.

It's time for us to tell our government we don't want dirty power anymore. We want clean power—and wind and solar don't spill.

Frances Beinecke
President, Natural Resources Defense Council

The demand for energy in the United States is growing, and we'll need more oil and natural gas to help meet that demand in the decades ahead. Offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico represents 30 percent of the nation's domestic oil production, and it will remain an essential energy source for America for decades to come.

We simply cannot shut off the Gulf of Mexico spigot and expect our economy to continue its recovery—not without increasing the amount of oil we have to import. Offshore drilling in the Gulf is critical for U.S. energy security, for economic growth, and for millions of jobs across the country that depend on the oil and gas industry.

The tragic rig accident in the Gulf of Mexico, which took the lives of 11 workers, is causing much anxiety in the Gulf states and has created hardships for fishermen and many others along the coast. America's oil and natural gas industry is working closely with the federal government to determine the causes of the accident and improve safety to try to prevent it from happening again.

That's why we support a thorough review by an independent commission. This commission should be allowed to complete its work free of political influence and produce recommendations for safer offshore operations.

Moving to curtail or end offshore drilling before the facts are known would be premature and shortsighted, and it would harm our nation's economic and energy security. Our industry owes it to the nation—and to the nation's future—to learn from this experience so that we can continue providing the energy Americans want and need.

Jack M. Gerard
President & CEO, American Petroleum Institute

(The New York Times Upfront, Vol. 143, September 6, 2010)