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Turning Tide, Drilling Oil

September 19, 2008

New I and the Bird at Audubon Birdscapes.

The topic of off-shore drilling has been a hot one for the last few months, so please indulge me this little digression into the topic. Seemingly every elected official now has a take on the subject, with many coming around to it as a sort of compromise on the issue. However, those of us who live in the very states where the drilling would likely take place have a somewhat different view on the subject than those whose states are without coast.

That’s why it’s most frustrating to see that both candidates running for Senate in North Carolina, incumbent Elizabeth Dole (R) and challenger Kay Hagen (D), now support drilling offshore. Offshore drilling off the North Carolina coast is a bad idea just as it is everywhere. My friend Becky, the bird collections manager at the NC museum, laid it out on her own blog, Upapa epops. With her permission, here’s the skinny. I thought it was important and timely enough to get a wider audience.

– Off the coast of NC we have a unique situation. The warm Gulf Stream mixes with the cold Labrador Current and creates a temperate body of water. In addition, the continental crust extends quite a bit, and then drops suddenly. So you have this unique body of water, combined with a geologic feature that allows it to expand to different depths. In short off the coast of NC the ocean is just teeming with life. Probably one of the reasons the fishing is so renowned.

– All these fish attract a whole lotta pelagic birds. Most breed on remote islands around the world, and they have low productivity (one egg) and are slow to reach sexual maturity (in Northern Gannets, a common winter bird, it takes 8 years). This means that if they have a bad year, i.e. an oil spill, that seriously affects the total population numbers.

-Some pelagic birds that breed in the Caribbean come all the way to the NC gulf stream area to get food for chicks! That is a long round trip. But that’s how important this area is

-Other birds use the gulf stream as a migration flyway. Studies have shown that Cory’s and Greater Shearwaters (among others) fly to the UK, down the European coast to Africa, and then back across to Latin America. These birds have migration patterns that segregate the males and female and sometimes adults and young. So, if we have an oil spill while the females are coming though? That’s it. That’s all she wrote. There are no more females to come through.

-Not just birds, but there are also pelagic fish (tuna, for example, and the billfish) and whales that migrate here. Lots of turtles, too.

-Once you get out to the Gulf Stream, you have the Sargassum Sea. Sargussum is floating seaweed mats, home to lots of critters: baby sea turtles, sargassum crabs, fish, all kinds of species depend on this ecosystem. Having been out there I can tell you it is already full of trash, but we don’t need it to get oiled.

-Drilling for oil off our coast is an uncertain gamble. It is not going to make the price at the pump go down, even if they do discover reserves out there, for about 20 years. The only immediate impact will be felt in the pocketbooks of oil executives.

So with Democrats all of a sudden willing to “compromise” on this issue, it’s important that the facts get out there. There’s a reason that drilling off the Southeast United States has been nonexistent for these many years, even before the official ban. If there was oil out there, it would have been found 20 years ago.

As it is now, it seems as though the powers that be are conspiring against those of us who would oppose drilling in every square inch of available land. But the importance of continuing to fight this particular brand of insanity cannot be understated.

I encourage you to write your Senator or Congressman about this. Though, I know from experience, that Senator Elizabeth Dole doesn’t respond well. Just warning you…


Off topic, anyone else having trouble with blogger lately? I spend no small amount of time editing my posts and when they publish the unedited version is displayed. It’s very frustrating.

  1. Larry permalink
    September 21, 2008 3:11 am

    I could not agree with you more N8! Thank you for posting this very informative post on a very important subject. I hope we can all get to renewable energy before the politicians get crazier than they already are.

  2. Larry permalink
    September 21, 2008 3:31 am

    I almost forgot to mention, one great way to keep informed and contact you congressmen is with the Audubon Action. you can sign up here:

  3. Sky Girl permalink
    September 22, 2008 2:39 pm

    Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO) called this type of thinking “fanatical” in a recent television spot. I fumed for days. What an excellent post.

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