Pro Athletes Visit Oil Spill, Say "No More Drill Baby, Drill"

I am back home from my second trip to Louisiana since the oil spill. This time I was joined by other professional athletes to take a tour of the massive environmental catastrophe that is the Gulf oil disaster. Having been there before, I can tell you from experience that until you see the devastation with your own eyes, you cannot grasp how massive this tragedy really is.

The athletes that gathered in the Gulf were all very different. The event was organized by Michael Richter, NHL player and founder of Athletes for a Healthy Planet. Fellow NHL player Andrew Ference of the Boston Bruins and his wife Krista, a former X Games snowboarder, joined us as well. From the NFL we had Michael Alstott, who won the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ovie Mughelli who currently plays for the Atlanta Falcons. We also had Chanda Ruben, a tennis player and from the Olympics, skier Stacey Cook as well as Gary Morgan and Loree Smith from track and field. And then there's me, here to represent the racing world.

My first trip to the oil spill was over two months ago. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that it was spilling every second of every hour of every day from the moment I left the Gulf until the moment I returned. After my first experience seeing the spill in person, I was hopeful that the one positive action that could come from this event is that this would be Our Clean Energy Wake Up Call. Ever since, I have been struggling with the realization that it may not happen this year. I started lobbying for clean energy in DC back in 2008 and I returned there a couple weeks ago to meet with some clean energy companies. After speaking with the movers and shakers in energy in DC, I left with the sad impression that the bill is not expected to pass. This sad prediction came true on Thursday, when the Climate Energy bill was abandoned by the Senate, lacking support to reach the required 60 votes. In the wake of this environmental catastrophe, I really believed we were going to stop with the clean energy talk we have been hearing for decades, and this time actually do something. I am devastated to realize that I was wrong.

America's demand for oil far exceeds the supply. For argument's sake, let's assume we continue to drill at the risk of our ocean, our seafood, our wetlands, and the people who depend on the ocean for their livelihoods. Even if we tapped all the oil reserves in the United States, on and offshore, it would only be enough to satisfy our consumption for three and a half years. So what then? Keep buying from overseas? We currently import over 65% of our oil, spending $1 billion per day on foreign oil. If we continue with our current energy system, it will be the largest transfer of wealth in human history. This is not a workable formula, no matter how you do the math.

So it's time for America to take a good look in the mirror, check ourselves into rehab, and begin the long process of getting off our addiction to oil. It is time for us to use renewable energy for our buildings, our homes and our transportation using electric, hydrogen fuel cell or biofuel powered cars. Let's fuel our country with renewable energy we can make right here in the USA using our sun, our wind, our ocean, our land and our people.

Germany is a great example, they are currently the world leader in solar power. Germany recently announced that they have a goal of being 100% powered by renewable energy by 2050. They have created 300,000 clean energy jobs in Germany in the last decade. Why are we not making these kinds of moves? We are the United States of America -- let's be leaders, not followers.

All the athletes that joined me in Louisiana I consider to be just that -- leaders. While we are all very different, and come from different sports, we all traveled to the Gulf because we want to serve as environmental leaders and convey one clear message to the sports fans: our future depends on us moving towards a new era of energy. An era where instead of ripping up mountain tops for coal and destroying our oceans looking for oil, we capture energy from the infinite renewable supply we can harness from the sun, the wind, the ocean, and the land.

So when you look at the television and you see dolphins, turtles and birds suffocating, boats tied up at the dock, fishermen out of work, empty seafood restaurants, and lonely beaches whose only visitors are BP workers gathering the mess -- remember: this is drill baby, drill. This is what it gets us.

To view photos from my recent trip to the Gulf, click here