Earth Day celebrations should honor the people who are both good stewards and producers of earth’s natural bounties — that is, the people who, in effect, celebrate Earth Day each and every day. These producers, who provide society with food, fiber and minerals, present a stark contrast to the people who pretend that Mother Nature is some pure and benign entity that must be left to her own devices regardless of the cost to society.
For instance, one invariable focus of Earth Day in Santa Barbara posits that the offshore oil industry is bad for the environment. This is due to the fact that too much focus has been placed on extremely rare mishaps involving the industry, along with too little regard to the benefits of the natural bounty of offshore oil and gas deposits, along with an unrealistic portrayal of our natural setting.
For instance, one of the largest sources of air and water pollution in this region are not the oil rigs in the ocean, which are highly regulated and monitored, but the natural oil and gas seeps that produce pollution of the air and water all day long, year in and year out. In fact, we have the second-largest seeps in the entire world located just off shore UCSB. These seeps release 10,000 gallons of oil per day into our waters. The gases being emitted include methane, a gas that is more conducive to climate change than carbon. Every 12 months, these natural leaks produce the equivalent amount of oil that was released during the 1969 spill. Ergo, significant air and water pollution from oil and gas deposits is a natural occurrence.
On the other hand, before the rigs became operational off our coast, they were required to offset (eliminate) more than 100 percent of their emissions they themselves would generate before they could receive a permit to operate. What does that mean? It means we have less air pollution than we would have as a result of the rigs being there.
Reality also requires us to recognize that offshore oil drilling has served to deplete the oil reserves that are the source of these seeps. The oil industry also helped capture the gases that were being released from the ocean floor, via seep tents, thereby preventing their release into the atmosphere. In fact, when drilling was stopped as a result of the pipeline break three years ago, locals have observed a major increase in the seep activity, in addition to more tar on our local beaches.
There is another huge and positive benefit of the offshore rigs along our coastline, and that has to do with the fact that they serve as artificial reefs that benefit sea life. Biologists estimate that as many as 45 different species of fish live in the ecosystem created by the rigs, along with hundreds of millions of invertebrates.
In conclusion, offshore oil production helped to reduce both naturally occurring air and water pollution, and it created the conditions by which sea life has flourished abundantly. This is clearly worth celebrating.