A drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, where offshore drilling is currently permitted

Gary Tramontina/Corbis via Getty Images

Should the U.S. Expand Offshore Drilling? 

In January, the Trump administration announced a plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling into nearly all U.S. coastal waters. Under the proposal, hundreds of miles of coastline along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans—including areas where drilling has been blocked for decades—would be opened to oil and gas exploration. 

The plan has sparked controversy. The oil and gas industry has cheered the move, saying it will boost the nation’s energy production and make the U.S. less dependent on foreign oil. But environmental groups are opposed, saying the drilling would put vulnerable coastlines and ecosystems at risk. Here, an official from a trade association representing oil and gas companies and the governor of Virginia face off on whether to expand oil drilling in offshore areas.

Natural gas and oil play a critical role in our modern quality of life. In addition to fueling transportation and electricity, these resources provide the chemical building blocks for everything from lifesaving medical devices and 3-D printers to cosmetics and plastics.

The United States is fortunate to have ample energy resources to meet our needs and the technology to develop them safely. Strong domestic oil and gas production has reduced reliance on overseas energy, cutting costs for American homes and businesses and making us more secure. At the same time, carbon emissions from power plants in the U.S. have plunged to nearly 30-year lows thanks to growing use of clean natural gas.

Offshore resources are a key part of U.S. energy security, supplying more than 1 million barrels of oil per day for the past 20 years. And that’s with 94 percent of offshore areas—everywhere except part of the Gulf of Mexico—off-limits. Nations from Canada to Brazil are exploring for energy in the Atlantic, and Russia and China are doing the same in the Arctic—while U.S. resources in those same oceans are locked away. To preserve U.S. energy security and create hundreds of thousands of jobs, we need to get off the sidelines and see what U.S. energy resources are out there.

Offshore resources supply more than 1 million barrels of oil per day.

Americans all agree that protecting our beautiful coastline is essential. That’s why we must make use of technological innovation and stringent new safety standards to help ensure that offshore energy development is safer than ever.

In the coming decades, worldwide energy demand is expected to jump almost 30 percent. Despite the increasing use of renewable energy such as wind and solar, government projections indicate that natural gas and oil will supply an estimated 60 percent of U.S. energy needs in 2040.

To keep energy affordable and secure, it’s time we take advantage of America’s wealth of offshore energy waiting to be unlocked.



American Petroleum Institute

I grew up in a small fishing town on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, so I understand the effects offshore drilling would have on coastal communities. The economies of these areas rely heavily on clean water and unspoiled coastlines. The federal government’s intention to allow offshore drilling poses serious environmental threats and could be devastating to the economies of coastal states.

For all states that have coastlines, tourism is an important industry. In Virginia, for example, tourism is the fifth-largest private employer, generating $24 billion annually and supporting 230,000 jobs. Tourism is also responsible for $1.7 billion in state and local taxes.

Nearly one-fourth of Virginia’s tourism revenue comes from our coastal regions, and that would be threatened by offshore drilling. In 2010, an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, causing a massive oil spill that lasted for months and damaged the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Communities on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts are well aware of this catastrophe and eager to avoid a similar fate.

Just one offshore accident could have profound and irreversible effects.

Another aspect of coastal life that would be put in jeopardy by offshore drilling is fishing and the seafood industry. The economies of most seaside towns depend heavily on both commercial and recreational fishing, as well as aquaculture—the practice of raising aquatic animals like fish and shellfish to be harvested for food. Virginia is the third-largest seafood producer in the country, and like all coastal states, it depends on healthy and clean water to support its seafood and fishing industries.   

My primary job as governor is to make sure Virginia’s economy is thriving. That’s why I—along with a bipartisan group of 15 other governors—oppose the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plan. While I agree with the need for diversifying our energy sources, offshore drilling is not the answer. If there were just one accident, it could have profound and irreversible effects on coastal communities. We shouldn’t risk it.



Governor of Virginia

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