Vail Daily’s View: The real lesson from the oil spill
Vail, CO, Colorado
As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico moves into its second month, there are plenty of questions to be answered (leading with, “When are you going to plug that hole?”). But perhaps the biggest question will be answered in the months and years to come.
The unfortunate truth is that offshore oil drilling is an essential part of modern life and will be for the foreseeable future. And in the here and now, we need to plug the hole and clean up a very, very large mess.
But we need to keep clear-headed about this disaster and not let ourselves be stampeded into action that will hurt our country in coming years.
If you need an example, look back to the 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. That accident, and the far, far worse 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former Soviet Union, essentially froze the nuclear power industry in this country in its tracks. That has come to our great detriment.
While countries including France and Japan safely generate much of their electricity with the heat of splitting atoms, our nation still relies on fuels such as coal and natural gas, resources that carry their own economic and environmental burdens. Our need for electricity – especially for mostly urban transportation – is going to grow in the coming years. Losing 30 years of know-how in the nuclear energy business is a decision we’ll regret sooner than later.
Even in a more electric future, the sad fact is that no energy source today works better than oil. We’re going to need the stuff far into the future, and the more we don’t have to buy from places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, the better off we’ll be. And that means offshore oil wells.
The Obama administration has already started a Three Mile Island-like stampede against offshore drilling, imposing a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. A federal judge has overturned that job-killing ban, but administration officials are promising an appeal.
A better course, in our view, would be, first, focusing that attention instead on plugging the stupid hole and, second, a comprehensive look at how to make offshore drilling as safe as possible, including better plans for handling accidents so they don’t turn into disasters.
Vail Daily Editorial Board