Whether or not to permit oil drilling off of the East Coast, including New Jersey, has been hotly controversial for years. In 2010, President Obama opened up the East Coast to offshore oil drilling. Up until then, drilling had been banned for decades. In the waning days of the Obama Administration, NJ Senator Robert Menendez urged Obama to reinstate the ban on the grounds that drilling would pose too big a risk to Jersey’s coastal industries, including tourism and fishing. I don’t know enough about the risks to comment on Menendez’s claim, except to say that all industrial activities represent risk along with the rewards.
Having said that, this comment caught my eye:
Drilling for oil is a risk-reward proposition — all of the risk is put on the backs of our shore communities, and all of the reward goes to Big Oil.
Menendez also took a cheap shot at the oil industry, saying “Big Oil will stop at nothing to feed its insatiable thirst for more profit, even if it puts our economy and environment in peril.”
I left these comments:
“Drilling for oil is a risk-reward proposition — all of the risk is put on the backs of our shore communities, and all of the reward goes to Big Oil.”
This is patently untrue.
The oil companies obviously take risks in spending $billions with no guarantee of success. They are also responsible for cleaning up their messes, and must spend $billions should an accident occur. They and their employees can even be held criminally liable through criminal neglect laws. Just ask BP.
We should be thankful for the oil companies’ “insatiable thirst for more profit.” That’s a good thing. Those $billions are earned by providing economical, reliable energy to consumers, including consumers living in New Jersey, as well as all other industries and their consumers. If “it puts our economy and environment in peril,” then we the consumers who willingly buy their product are just as guilty. But in fact, the oil industry has fueled our industrial progress for generations, making our environment cleaner and safer and our economy strong, including right here in NJ. Without drilling somewhere, where would NJ’s tourism industry be? Non-existent! Investors and employees not just in oil and gas but across all industries also benefit.
This is not to minimize the risks of drilling. But the above statement is pure demagoguery. We don’t have to brush off the environmental and pollution risks to recognize the immensely greater life-giving value provided by the oil industry and the drilling investments that support it. Risk-rewards, yes; and the rewards dwarf the risks.
NOTE: Obama eventually did reverse course and ban drilling in the Atlantic.