It's easy enough for us flatlanders to favor offshore drilling to increase oil supplies and bring down gasoline prices. But what if the "offshore" we're talking about is drilling in Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes?Does anyone have any thoughts? Go read the whole thing.
Picture drilling rigs in the lake within sight of Chicago and North Shore towns. Imagine oil spills and near-dead, crude-oil-soaked birds flopping about on Oak Street Beach. Imagine the disappearance of smelt and salmon. Imagine poisoned water supplies. Imagine the end of the world.
Well, at least that's the kind of exaggerated rhetoric we'll hear from the East, West and Gulf Coasts in response to proposals by President Bush and the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee, John McCain, to lift the federal ban on drilling on America's outer continental shelf. Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama wants to keep the ban.
Neither proposal explicitly calls for drilling in the Great Lakes, and I'm not for raising alarms. But Congress imposed a ban on it a few years ago, and Congress can remove it. Don't think there's no interest in drilling in the Great Lakes. Michigan draws the greatest interest because it (and parts of other Midwest states) is sitting on top of the Niagaran coral reef, believed to be loaded with oil and natural gas reserves. Just under Lake Erie is a trillion cubic feet of natural gas, waiting to be tapped. Politically, the idea might seem dead right off the bat. After all, who would dare violate the health and sanctity of the world's largest body of fresh water?
Canada would. And does. Yes, politically correct Canada, that one. In addition to the Great Lakes, Canada allows offshore drilling in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. (The People's Paradise of Cuba also is eyeing offshore drilling, some of it as close as 45 miles to the Florida coast, using techniques much less environmentally sound than American companies.)
Maybe Obama, in the interests of clean water, thinks he could jawbone Canada and Cuba into giving up those oil and natural gas resources. Michigan has several active wells tapping into the reserves under the lake using "directional drilling," allowing drilling on the diagonal, as it were, reducing chances of an in-water oil spill. (Environmentalists also oppose this technique.) Those wells were grandfathered in before the Great Lakes ban was imposed.
America's outer continental shelf holds some 14 billion barrels of oil and 55 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which according to Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is more than 25 years of Saudi Arabian imports. That's in addition to the uncounted billions of barrels in North American oil shale, which, of course, is being extracted by Canada, but not by the United States.
Is Great Lakes drilling safe? Has it brought alarming and wholesale environmental destruction? A 2002 report by the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan asserted that drilling in Lake Erie has caused 51 natural gas leaks from 1997 to 2001 and 83 oil spills from 1990 to 1995. The group's report, called "Dirty Drilling," called the leaks significant and a threat to wildlife. Canadian authorities dispute the report and call the drilling safe.
Well, not to worry. Nothing will happen. Nothing ever does.
1 hour ago