Did you know that coastal activity in Atlantic states--ranging from fishing, tourism, recreation and more--supports about 1.4 million jobs and net about $95 billion in gross domestic product every year? That means that anytime you head to the East Coast and spend time fishing or eating local seafood, for example, you are stimulating the local economy and supporting jobs. Unfortunately, the federal government could be threatening these jobs and economies by moving forward with offshore oil and gas exploration and development in the Atlantic.
Last week, Oceana released a report that highlights the benefits of a clean and sustainable energy alternative: offshore wind energy. The report found that offshore wind would create twice the number of jobs and twice the amount of energy in the Atlantic Ocean than offshore drilling. The report also highlights how offshore drilling could jeopardize the healthy Atlantic Ocean that jobs and local economies depend on, challenging claims by the oil and gas industry that offshore drilling in the Atlantic will move the U.S. closer to energy independence, create jobs and generate revenue.
Compared to other U.S. regions currently used or being considered for fossil fuel extraction, like the Gulf of Mexico or Arctic, the Atlantic Coast has minimal oil and gas resources to offer. For example, the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) contains less than four percent of U.S. oil and gas reserves. And these reserves are finite resources, meaning when they run out, so do the jobs and energy. It's estimated that oil reserves from the Atlantic OCS would only last for less than five months, while gas reserves would last for less than 10 months, at current domestic usage rates. On the other hand, the Atlantic could help generate 143 gigawatts of offshore wind power--or enough to power 115 million households.
One of the oil and gas industry's prevailing arguments for offshore drilling is job creation. But our report found that offshore wind would create 91,000 more jobs than offshore drilling, or about double the number of jobs created from offshore drilling. Since the wind never runs out, these jobs would grow and remain stable in the future.
The Obama Administration moved the East Coast one step closer to offshore drilling this past July by accepting applications for the use of seismic airguns to look for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor. These applications seek to use these dangerous devices in an area stretching from Delaware to Florida--a region twice the size of California. Airguns create dynamite-like blasts of air that could disrupt the necessary activities of many marine animals, such as breeding and feeding. And as we've written before, seismic airguns could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals, such as the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which there are only approximately 450 left, according to the federal government's own estimates.
The 2010 BP Gulf oil spill disaster and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound show just how dangerous oil drilling and transporting can be for fisheries, economies and the environment. The Atlantic does not need to be exposed to such dangers, especially when the benefits of a cleaner, more sustainable energy source are evident and available. We're glad to see that the administration has moved forward with offshore wind lease sales in the Atlantic, and urge them to continue expanding this clean energy alternative into the Mid- and South Atlantic regions instead of moving forward with seismic airgun blasting and offshore drilling.