With all of the recent attention paid to California’s energy crisis, it is not surprising that oil companies are starting the process to drill more oil in Santa Barbara County. I firmly believe that there is an energy crisis, but it does not result from a lack of oil or nuclear power, or of any other energy form that contributes to Greenhouse gases, rising rates of asthma, cancer or other health conditions.
In my opinion, the energy crisis lies within the fact that we, as Americans, are addicted to energy but refuse to take viable energy alternatives, such as solar, wind, hemp (gasp!), and methanol seriously. Why have we not focused on the health of our communities, environment and future seriously? Why do we continue to look toward the very same methods of energy that have contributed to the health problems, environmental problems and our famed "energy crisis" in order to get us out of the mess we are in? People, it is time to think "outside the box" and demand the right to alternative energy. As citizens of Planet Earth we must oppose oil production in the Santa Barbara Channel, in the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in Nigeria and Colombia and everywhere else big industry wants to pollute and contaminate (and kill on occasion) to make a dollar.
If my tone is one of contempt, it is only because I have been working in this community for the last five years and have been able to see the damage that oil production does to a community. I have been working to get rid of oil rigs in the channel, such as Platform Holly which is in our direct view, that have been polluting our community with hydrogen sulfide gas. Hydrogen sulfide gas has been given the highest hazard rating for toxic chemicals, and still Venoco, the owner of Platform Holly, operates. Once an oil platform goes in, it stays in for a long, long time and they are very difficult to shut down.
We have seen other problems with oil production: How about the town of Guadalupe that is 45 minutes north of UCSB? Unocal dumped over 11 million barrels of oil production chemicals into the ground at Guadalupe – considered one of the largest oil spills in history – and did not say a word about it. Good thing community activists caught them red-handed.
Forgetting the dangers of oil spills, gas leaks, and impacts to air, water and wildlife, let’s remember that drilling is the first step of many that turns oil into energy. To drill for oil, corporations often try to explore for oil seismically by introducing compressed air into ocean water; this creates a wave that echoes off the bottom and ultimately produces a two-dimensional image that is used to interpret where oil may be. The high frequencies produced by these echoes harm marine mammals, and the effects on small and microscopic forms of marine life are unknown. When oil is combusted into energy, it contributes to global climate change, rates of asthma and cancer, and local and global species decline. Don’t believe me? Consult the recent oil spill in the Gal