Blue Vision Summit Makes a Splash in DC

Posted by: Elizabeth Maksymonko

If D.C. seemed a little “fishy” over the weekend, it was because the third annual Blue Vision Summit, organized by the Blue Frontier Campaign, was in town.  From Friday through Monday, the marine conservation community gathered to take a look at the top issues affecting the oceans today, and how we can move into a healthy ocean future.  Ocean Champions was a proud sponsor of this event, which brought together a plethora of ocean community players, including individual ocean lovers, non-profits, ocean celebs and government agencies like NOAA.

The Summit kicked off on Friday with a ‘Celebration of the Seas’ that included film screenings, an art show, and of course, a party. Saturday and Sunday were chock full of panels that presented a variety of ocean issues, from Gulf restoration following the oil spill to ocean policy on the local, state and federal level.  Lively Q&A’s followed the panels, which provided a great way for people to understand the differing views and concerns of the vast ocean community.  After-summit parties followed each day’s activities, offering the activists a chance to network and make connections with fellow ocean warriors.  The summit wrapped up on Monday with Capitol Hill Oceans Day, where hundreds of attendees swarmed the offices of their elected Representatives to push for implementation of last our National Ocean Policy.  This is a great way to show Members of Congress that there is a large, active group of ocean voters to whom they need to pay attention.

The Blue Vision Summit is always a lot of fun.  Lots of useful information is presented, and the attendees certainly learn a lot.  I think the most important things to come out of it, though, are the networks that are built as people connect to like-minded activists from around the country and the fighting spirit that is stoked by rallying with such a big, passionate group.  There are many challenges facing the oceans these days, and many deep pocketed forces aligned against it.  If we’re going go win, everyone in the ocean community needs to be rowing in the same direction, and events like the Blue Vision Summit do just that.

Date Posted: May 26, 2011 @ 9:48 am Comments Off

Offshore Drilling Math Doesn’t Add Up

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

Earlier today, Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) issued a report about the true economics behind rising gas prices.  This is a really interesting read, and I encourage anyone who is concerned about U.S. energy policy to take a look.  Of particular interest to me, however, is how the report eviscerates the arguments for expanded offshore oil drilling.

House leadership has been pushing the “Drill, Baby, Drill” agenda since the beginning of the 112th Congress.  Every proponent has the same talking point, “Gas prices are too high because we don’t drill enough.  If we drill more, gas prices will come down.”  Well, this is simply garbage, as Cong. Cummings’ report makes clear with the following cites:

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is the nation’s foremost independent
source of energy information and analyses.  In 2009, EIA examined the potential impact of
expanding domestic oil exploration and drilling on the outer continental shelf of the Atlantic and
Pacific coasts of the United States and the Eastern and Central regions of the Gulf of Mexico.
EIA issued a report concluding that there would be no changes in gas prices by the year 2020,
and that there would be a decrease of only 3 cents per gallon by the year 2030.

The primary reason for this result is that oil is a global commodity traded on the world
market.  On January 4, 2011, Ken Green, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise
Institute, explained that new U.S. oil production would not affect the price of crude oil
domestically.  He stated:  “The world price is the world price.  Even if we were producing 100
percent of our oil, … [w]e probably couldn’t produce enough to affect the world price of oil.”

Indeed, the fact that we simply don’t have enough oil to impact world oil prices (and thus, gas prices in the U.S.) is supported by industry insiders like Michael Canes, the former Chief Economist for the American Petroleum Institute, who said:

“World oil prices are determined in a market of around 85 million barrels per day of
production and consumption, while the consequences of domestic drilling, particularly in
the Gulf, likely would be more in the range of several hundred thousand to one million
barrels per day, and most of that production would not occur for a number of years.”

I guess that’s why he’s the “former” chief economist.  In fact, we’re already drilling at the highest level in 10-years, and some interesting sources are suggesting we might even have an oil glut right now.  Interesting sources like ExxonMobile CEO, Rex Tillerson, who is quoted in the report (from April 24th, 2011) as saying that U.S. oil inventories are “near record highs,” and “there is plenty of oil on the market.”

The report goes on to assert that gas prices are rising as a result of excessive speculation in the oil futures market, citing a number of credible sources and studies to make those points as well.  But that’s not my concern.  I simply want to prevent more ocean oil spills, which expanded offshore drilling will surely bring.

So, with the facts about the (lack of) effect of expanded offshore oil drilling on gas prices so clear, what excuse will offshore drilling proponents use now?  Maybe they’ll just claim that they’re hopelessly bad at math.

Date Posted: May 24, 2011 @ 3:02 pm Comments Off

The National Endowment for the Oceans: Investing in Our Oceans’ Future

Posted by: Elizabeth Maksymonko

In case you missed it, last week, we at Ocean Champions applauded the introduction of the National Endowment for the Oceans (NEO) by some of the strongest ocean champions in Congress, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). This legislation would establish the first-ever national fund for ocean conservation and would direct significant resources to activities that would restore, protect, and maintain ocean, coastal and Great Lakes health. This landmark bill is incredibly important to the future of our ocean’s health.

NEO funds would be distributed through three grant programs. Funded activities could include habitat restoration, fisheries management, climate change and acidification research, ecosystems monitoring, and planning and managing coastal development to mitigate risks associated with climate change, among other activities. These days, the oceans are under pressure from a variety of sources, from carbon dioxide driven acidification to plastic pollution that threatens wildlife. The NEO acknowledges that these pressures are not only problems for ocean ecosystems; they also impact economic stability and human health. The NEO will work to fund projects to address these issues and ensure healthy oceans for the future.

This legislation will be paid for by revenue generated from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, offshore energy development, and part of the fines and damages collected for violations of laws meant to protect these marine ecosystems.  As Senator Whitehouse explained, “Put simply, a small portion of the revenue generated from damaging our oceans will be reinvested in their health and long-term viability.”

 

 

As usual in this political environment, the NEO will have a tough fight, but its introduction in the Senate came with some good signs – bipartisan support and an impressive list of original cosponsors, including Committee Chairmen like Senators Rockefeller (D-WV), Inouye (D-HI), and Stabenow (D-MI), and ocean champions like Senators Nelson (D-FL) and Snowe (R-ME).  The first goal is to get a Committee hearing and hopefully, a markup.  You can help make this happen by becoming a citizen co-sponsor. This is incredibly important, as members of the Senate need to understand that a broad cross-section of the public has a vested interest in the future of our oceans. Together, we make this happen!

Date Posted: May 18, 2011 @ 11:03 am Comments Off

Chumming for Conservation: Is there hope for our planet’s sharks?

Posted by: Frank Reynolds

 

Much like the planet of Pandora, the majestic and vibrant world of James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar, our Earth contains brilliant varieties of life that transcend science fiction. Much of this life, almost fifty percent of it, lives in the bodies of water we earthlings call Oceans. Studies show that as much as 80% of the species living beneath the seas are unidentified; only adding to the mysterious aura of Earth and its capacity to foster diversity of life. That is a massive number, but one that is reduced daily through the work of world-class scientists, oceanographers, and explorers.  However, the bigger concern doesn’t revolve around the enigmatic 80%, but rather, the 20% of marine life that is identified.  What are we doing to ensure that this percentage of known species is not being reduced as well?

Sharks are the poster child for humanity’s exploitation of marine life. With declining numbers that make fingers on keyboards tremble in shock and or sadness when typed, these ancient beauties are systematically slaughtered for purposes beyond rational comprehension. They have no voice, and although they would match up fairly well in a bareknuckle fight with humans, sharks cannot protect themselves from the uppercuts (and hooks) of advanced fishing technology. Thus, the burden of establishing firm policies that protect sharks’ existence falls to their allies.  Exterminating 400 million year old animals is not something that we want on our resume.

Who are these “allies”? Governments, organizations, politicians, and common citizens that are empowering this voiceless species and giving sharks, and their admirers, hope that their existence is ensured. Recently, the country of Palau established the world’s first shark sanctuary in a historic effort to curb overfishing, and the benefits are surging from both a conservation and economic standpointShark Savers, a grass roots organization, is working tirelessly to create educational awareness of shark population decline, and empowering world citizens to act in their daily lives to conserve sharks. Ocean Champions creates leverage for these organizations by endorsing and supporting pro-ocean candidates for Congress – building political power for the oceans on Capitol Hill.

California, Oregon and Washington are currently considering legislation to end the brutal practice of shark finning.  The California bill, Assembly Bill 376, aims to “save sharks and the oceans by banning the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins.”

So sharks do have influential allies, but they’re up against the massive economic engines behind the groups butchering these magnificent animals for reasons that are both outdated and naïve. Winning this fight is important, as it is unthinkable that future generations may not know the splendor of the Scalloped Hammerhead. In the marine ecosystem and its food chain, shark species play a critical role, and decimating them would have a profound impact on other aquatic life.  We cannot afford to let that 20% of known species fall to 2%. Unless we only want to experience nature’s beauty on the silver screen, we cannot allow our Pandora to drift away.

Date Posted: May 10, 2011 @ 1:19 pm Comments Off

Drilling Off Virginia’s Coast? Ummm… Why?

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

This week, perhaps as early as tonight, the House will vote on two of Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA) “drill, baby, drill” bills:

  • H.R. 1229 gives the understaffed (and historically under qualified) BOEMRE staff a maximum of 60 days to review an offshore drilling permit request.  If the review can’t be completed in that period, the permit is considered approved!
  • H.R. 1230 REQUIRES the Secretary of Interior to conduct offshore oil and gas drilling lease sales in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia.

These are gloriously bad ideas that WILL NOT solve our energy problem.  They WILL, however, increase the risk of devastation to the Chesapeake Bay, and to sensitive barrier islands up and down the mid-Atlantic coast, as well as to the tourism and fishing industries in those same areas.

How likely is a BP event for this region?  No one can say, but consider that the drilling would take place in 5,000+ feet of water, just like BP’s Macondo well.  Even if normal drilling operations go well, the Atlantic Ocean experiences on average about 6 hurricanes and 5 more named storms each season, many of which chug through the areas being considered for drilling.  Remember that hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged 457 pipelines, destroyed 113 drilling platforms and caused 146 oil spills resulting in 18,000 barrels of petroleum spilled.  Finally, normal operation causes about 180,000 gallons of waste mud containing toxic metals to be dumped into surrounding waters EACH DAY.  I bet that would be good for the Chesapeake!

Let’s put aside the environmental argument for a minute and look at the economics.  Virginia drilling proponents estimate that the oil industry could bring 2,000 to 2,500 jobs to the state, along with $271 million in annual state and local tax revenue.  Woo Hoo!  OK, now let’s compare that to the 210,000 and 13,000 jobs supported by Virginia’s tourism and fishing industries, which also generate about $21 billion in total revenue (including tax revenue) in the state.  As in the Gulf, those industries would be decimated by a spill.  That’s like betting $100 to win $1.12 (and we haven’t even considered tourism and fishing revenue for North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey)!

Furthermore, BOEMRE estimates that Virginia’s total offshore oil supply would provide all of 6 days worth of fuel for the U.S. at current consumption rates – 6 days!  Yep, I get it.  This’ll stop us from buying oil from terrorists.

Add to that the kicker that H.R. 1229 would allow any permit request not reviewed within 60 days to be automatically approved, and you have the recipe for disaster.  Sadly, the House is likely to pass these ill-conceived bills whenever the vote takes place.

The real fight will take place in the Senate, so get ready to contact your Senators!

Date Posted: May 2, 2011 @ 12:54 pm Comments Off