When the Trump administration released plans to allow offshore drilling for oil and gas on 90 percent of the United States’ continental shelf, including off Rhode Island, the reaction was swift.
Visions of the nightmare Deepwater Horizon spill no doubt spring to mind, with the potential to foul our beaches and its fisheries.
But the decision to allow offshore drilling, something banned in most areas off the U.S. coast since the 1980s, shows a misunderstanding of the full – and ironic – impact of the activity.
In fact, fossil fuels, no matter where they are harvested, are putting coastal areas across the globe in danger as sea levels rise. In the name of national energy independence, public policy would hasten the devastating impacts of burning fossil fuels and make much of Rhode Island and other low-lying areas uninhabitable.
But before the bureaucratic process for determining if the government’s plan could proceed, the administration decided that activity off the coast of Florida would not be subject to the expansion of drilling rights.
It is not clear why the government changed its mind, although Florida is an important electoral swing state.
But no matter the politics, this is just not good public policy. At a time when renewable energy in the United States and across the world is becoming less expensive, and the effects of climate change are becoming more pronounced, pulling more fossil fuels out of the ground is not a wise decision, and one that hopefully will be rescinded before any drilling rigs park themselves off Block Island.