Anyone who lives in Southern California and travels up the coast from San Diego to San Francisco has seen the offshore oil rigs along the coast of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Long Beach. Anyone living in any of the other coastal cities such as San Diego, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, La Jolla, Del Mar, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Cardiff, Carlsbad, Oceanside, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Beach, Corona del Mar , Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Pismo Beach, Morro Bay, Cambria or San Simeon see something different: pristine beaches with no offshore oil rigs.
Amid America’s financial collapse and on the same weekend that Congress prepared a $ 700 billion bailout, Congress lifted a 26-year ban on offshore oil drilling to the dismay of environmentalists.
Despite the ban on offshore oil drilling, such drilling, at least off the coast of California, is believed to be unlikely to occur for many years, if ever. Democrats in Congress are already promising to reinstate the ban when a new Congress takes their seats in four months. And political opposition, marine protection laws, and nearly certain lawsuits from environmental groups in California make offshore oil drilling an unlikely event.
First of all, there is a general belief among Californians, including the Governor, that the California coast is an international treasure, not to mention that it attracts tourists from all over the world. Few politicians in the state would dare to jeopardize that treasure.
Second, a law passed by former Gov. Pete Wilson already bans all offshore oil drilling in California up to three miles offshore.
Third, there are 300 miles of national marine sanctuaries along the California coast that prohibit oil drilling.
Fourth, nearly every coastal county in the State of California has enacted ordinances prohibiting new pipelines, oil terminals, and tanks in the State.
Fifth, environmental groups are already promising to file lawsuits, and the California Coastal Commission could join them.
While California has about 30 oil rigs off the coast of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Long Beach that were built in the 1950s, no new oil rigs have been built in more than 50 years.
California is estimated to have at least 10.5 billion barrels of offshore oil, about a year and a half of the nation’s annual supply. This is comparable to the oil estimate at the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
But if anything, despite the oil crisis and financial crisis, in light of global warming and calls to invest in alternative energy, Californians are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious. Any politician running on any offshore drilling-based rig (oil or not) at risk for California’s scenic coastline will have a tough time getting elected.