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A Forced Choice On Offshore Oil?

by Scott Bittle

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

We talk a lot about making choices at Public Agenda, but frequently options are framed by disaster as much as by deliberate choice. That's certainly true for the debate on energy and offshore oil drilling, which looks like it's going to be fundamentally reshaped by the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The public is following news coverage of the spill closely, which could prove devastating to the environment and the economy. Both pro- and anti-drilling forces are mobilizing, and some observers are predicting that this could derail the energy and climate bill in the Senate, which includes more offshore drilling as a key compromise to gain votes.

At Wild Well Control station, May 5, 2010. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley

Whether we back away from offshore drilling or not, we need to keep a few key things in mind. One is that world energy demand is rising dramatically, as more people in the developing world start making enough money to afford cars and a Western lifestyle. The world needs more energy, even as it needs cleaner energy to cope with the danger of climate change.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster has made the tradeoffs of offshore drilling vividly clear. But so is something else: making a choice on offshore drilling doesn't mean we've wrapped up the debate and can now sit back and relax.

Making this choice whichever way we go needs to be the precursor to a much broader look at the choices we face for making sure we have enough reliable, safe, and affordable energy for the future.

To learn more about energy, check out Who Turned Out The Lights? Your Guided Tour To The Energy Crisis, and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.


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