Stop the presses: Oil has been leaking out of fissures in the ocean floor (“Resume drilling,” Jan. 28) for thousands of years! The drill-baby-drill fan club loves to cite the stats for oil seeps (250 barrels a day in the Santa Barbara Channel! An Exxon Valdez every six months in the Gulf of Mexico!), based, it would seem, on this logic: Look at messy old Mother Earth. We should go out and get that offshore oil because, heck, we’d be much tidier than that.
If it occurs to you, as it obviously never occurs to them, to scratch your head and ask, “So where are all the dead seabirds and devastated fisheries from all these terrible seeps?” good for you. There is no comparison between a natural seep—which forms a harmless slick a hundredth of a millimeter thick on top of the water, broken up by bacteria and wave action—and an oil spill. Some of the oil from a seep might make it to a beach in the form of tar balls, which are annoying to scrub off if you step on them barefoot.
As primary season draws near and the usual oil-covered candidates crank up the drilling rhetoric, one might politely point out to them that a better way of addressing the issue would be through energy efficiency measures and a national Renewable Portfolio Standard mandating that a greater percentage of our energy come from clean renewable sources, as these will significantly reduce demand for hydrocarbon fuels. One might mention to them that the devastating environmental impacts of offshore drilling even before the arrival of the inevitable spill (among them, seismic surveys, dart core sampling, drilling muds, nitrogen oxides, an industrialized coastline) should be left off the menu if we want a future for our fishing and tourism industries.