The strength of Donald Trump’s embrace of the fossil fuel industry knows no bounds. The putative president is set to sign an order on Friday directing the Interior Department to review possible locations for offshore natural gas and oil drilling off the coast of California. Trump’s action will take place just before he shuffles off to his Florida mansion for yet another vacation after a busy week of tweeting and hobnobbing with aging celebrities.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Tuesday nothing is off the table. “We’re going to look at everything, A new administration should look at the policies and make sure the policies are appropriate.”
One can never drill enough wells according to Erik Milito, a policy director at the American Petroleum Institute, which is the primary front group for the oil and gas industry. By endorsing “a long term energy strategy that allows opportunities to lease over years in various areas,” the Trump administration would be preserving flexibility for U.S. oil and gas development needed to help satisfy worldwide energy demand, he said.
“We’re not going to sit here and say that companies are going to want to go out and drill tomorrow in the Pacific and the Atlantic,” Milito said. But “it is important to keep options open for the long term, so companies can start planning for and determining where the best prospects are and then make those investments the global economy will require over time. We shouldn’t be closing any type of windows to potential discoveries and production that likely would be years away,” he added.
Trump’s plan will encounter fierce opposition from all three west coast states and from environmental groups. There have been no new drilling leases for areas off the Pacific Coast since 1984. In fact, a disastrous well failure in the Santa Barbara Channel in 1969 helped usher in the modern environmental movement.
The disdain the fossil fuel industry has for any rules put in place to protect the environment or the citizens of the United States is legendary and ongoing. Just 7 years after the calamity that followed the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico, it is pushing hard to weaken the requirements put in place to prevent a similar cataclysm from happening. It is also lobbying to relax drilling restrictions in the Arctic — an area that has only recently become accessible to drilling thanks to rising global temperatures caused by burning fossil fuels.
Congressional representatives from California, Oregon, and Washington are united in their opposition to offshore drilling. They argue that any oil spills in the region will jeopardize fishing and tourism along the coast. They want federal legislation to permanently prohibit offshore drilling by their states.
“New oil drilling along our coasts is unnecessary and dangerous,” says Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. “There’s no reason to expose more coastal economies to the risk of disastrous spills so oil companies can drill for hard-to-reach fossil fuels. Rather than signing reckless executive orders, the president should focus on investing in safer, cleaner energy sources.”
“It is very clear that the communities on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts don’t want and don’t need offshore leasing or drilling,” said Mike LeVine, senior Pacific counsel for the conservation group Oceana. “It is equally clear that President Trump is prioritizing politics and corporate interests ahead of our coastal communities and good stewardship of our ocean resources.”
The need to keep existing fossil fuel reserves in the ground has never been more urgent. According to Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, if all the world’s reserves are tapped and burned, the resulting rise in global temperatures will destroy all life on earth. Such objections are batted away by fossil fuel emperors like the Koch Brothers. who insist their right to increase their personal wealth cannot be curtailed in any way — even if it results in the death of every living thing on the planet.