At the 2008 Republican National Convention, party stalwart Michael Steele declared, “Drill, baby, drill! And drill now! Do you want to put your country first? Then let’s make decisions about our security based on what keeps us safe and not on what’s politically correct.”
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stepped onto the national stage at that convention as Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, and she quickly took up the “drill, baby, drill!” mantra, always being sure to make the proclamation with her telegenic broadcaster’s smile. Palin became the Republicans’ biggest proponent of unfettered drilling, in particular offshore drilling.
It’s little wonder that Palin and Donald Trump allied during his 2016 run for the White House. They were clearly cut from the same cloth. They both hold an antiquated notion of energy production: that the only way forward is to extract as much oil, natural gas and coal from the Earth as humanly possible, and to do it as quickly as possible.
No, Trump’s desire to suck our land and oceans dry of oil is not a new one. It was embraced by the Republicans in 2008, and more quietly in GOP circles for years before that.
But the party never pushed offshore drilling as Trump has. In January 2018, his administration said it would allow new offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all U.S. coastal waters. His plan would give “energy companies access to leases off California for the first time in decades” and open “more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the Eastern Seaboard,” The New York Times recently reported.
That means that Trump’s plan could impact Long Island, if it were to come to be.
The proposal by the U.S. Department of Interior would open more than 90 percent of the outer continental shelf — the submerged land three miles off the coast — to oil and gas exploration.
A federal judge ruled in March, however, that the president’s executive order to permit such activity was unlawful. Thank goodness.
We’re not off the hook, though. Appeals could overturn that ruling. That’s why we, the people, must make our voices heard. And that’s what happened on Monday, Earth Day, when the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor held a rally at Tappen Beach in Sea Cliff to denounce Trump’s proposal.
“The executive branch is trying to undo all these [environmental] regulations, but we need to stop the ‘drill, baby, drill’ mindset,” U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat from Glen Cove, told the Herald in advance of the protest.
Now all of us need to keep up the pressure to ensure that offshore drilling never happens here, and that no new drilling happens anywhere else.
How naïve and greedy Steele and Palin appeared just under a year and half after their fateful declarations when an offshore oil rig, British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11, injuring 17 and spewing an estimated 5,000 to 25,000 barrels of crude oil a day into oceanic waters stretching from Louisiana to Florida and beyond.
The spill quickly added up to a catastrophe far greater in scope than the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, which killed untold numbers of wildlife and marred Alaska’s ecologically fragile coastline for years. In all, the Exxon Valdez released almost 11 million gallons of oil into the environment.
The BP spill, by comparison, released 200 million gallons of oil. That translates to more than 200 trillion — trillion! — gallons of seawater poisoned by the spill, because one quart of oil poisons 250,000 gallons of saltwater for all life in its path, according to the Coastal Bays Program, a Maryland-based nonprofit environmental group.
Many protests followed, including one by Hands Across the Sand, a nonprofit committed to abolishing offshore oil drilling, in Long Beach in 2010. The demonstration was one of more than 900 held in 163 countries that year, calling on oil companies to stop drilling in the ocean and concentrate their vast resources on producing more power using alternative technologies such as solar, wind and geothermal.
Today, people have largely forgotten the destruction that a single oil spill can cause. But we mustn’t. Hands Across the Sand will hold protests of Trump’s drilling policies in Brooklyn and Manhattan on May 18. For more, go to www.handsacrossthesand.org.