Trump’s offshore oil plan is a hostile act by a rogue nation

Handing over the oceans to fossil-fuel companies would threaten people and wildlife around the world

We can’t overstate just how much President Trump’s offshore drilling offensive threatens the planet and its inhabitants. Not only is he inviting dirty drilling rigs off Ocean Beach and the entire West Coast, but he’s jeopardizing California and other coastlines for generations to come.  

If the draft plan that the Trump administration released this month becomes final, letting the oil industry tap every ocean in the country, we’re dooming people and wildlife around the world to needless suffering and death.

Polar Bears, among other threatened species, could be driven to the brink of extinction by Trump’s plan. NASA photo

That may sound alarmist, but it’s also true. This is a crucial, life-altering decision. Our country will never recover if we get it wrong. That’s why Californians are forming a wall of opposition leading up to the Feb. 8 hearing in Sacramento, the only one in our huge state.

Selling decades-long fossil fuel leases in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic oceans would lock in disastrous climate change scenarios, delay our country’s transition to a clean energy economy, and pollute coastal communities that rely on clean seas. It could also hasten the extinctions of several endangered species by the end of this century, including polar bears, Pacific walruses, and several species of seals and whales.   

Trump doesn’t seem to understand the implications of his industry-backed plan, seeing only the illusory short-term benefits to oil companies and his presidency, but the dangers are clear.

Multi-million-dollar fishing, recreation, and tourism industries in California, Florida, Alaska, and the East Coast would suddenly be threatened by the oil spills that inevitably come with offshore drilling.

Beautiful coastlines that have never been marred by oil-producing offshore drilling platforms – like Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties in California, Virginia Beach, North Carolina Outer Banks, and Florida’s famed Daytona Beach – would have their postcard-perfect settings sullied by Trump’s reckless, foolish giveaway.

Tourism is big business in these places, creating far more jobs and revenues than the oil industry ever will. The industrialization that comes with dirty energy production, and the oil spills that follow, would change these coastlines forever. 

That’s why more than 140 East Coast municipalities officially opposed President Obama’s 2010 inclusion of one offshore Atlantic lease in his draft five-year offshore energy plan, causing it to be removed from the final plan. Trump’s plans to turn over all federal waters to the oil industry will hit even bigger walls of popular opposition.

In California, more than two dozen cities and counties have recently passed resolutions opposing expanded offshore drilling and fracking, including San Francisco on Jan. 9. On Feb. 3, there will be rallies in a half-dozen California coastal cities opposing offshore drilling and big crowds are expected in Sacramento for the Feb. 8 federal hearing.

But will Trump listen or will he continue to ignorantly threaten the global climate by deepening our country’s dependence on and promotion of dirty fossil fuels?  

The United States is already the only country in the world to reject the Paris climate accord, even though we’ve sent more carbon pollution into the atmosphere and ocean than any other nation – by far. Yet defiantly lighting the fuse on the carbon bomb in our oceans would be seen as an unforgiveable act of aggression by rogue nation.

Drilling and burning all the recoverable oil and gas in Trump’s offshore plan would create almost 50 gigatons of carbon dioxide pollution. That would make limiting global temperature increases to 3.6 degrees, the maximum target set in the Paris, almost impossible.

So it’s up to Americans to save the world from the hubris of our political and economic leaders. Write your representatives, join our protests, make a ruckus, and demand the federal government protect our oceans and climate.  

This is the moment. We all have to do everything in our power to limit the leasing of federal waters before that final five-year offshore energy plan is issued later this year. Act as if the future depends on what we do right now – because it does.

Steven T. Jones, the former Bay Guardian city editor, is a media specialist for the Center for Biological Diversity’s oceans program, based in Oakland. For more information California’s campaign against offshore drilling and how you can get involved, visit www.endangeredoceans.org.