Today marks the 20th anniversary of one of the worst environmental disasters in history, the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
After two decades, the memory of the spill persists for the commercial fishermen and Alaska natives whose livelihoods were destroyed by Exxon's recklessness. Sadly, the oil persists, too: A 2007 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study showed that 26,600 gallons of crude oil from the spill are still lingering below the surface of Alaska's beaches.
What has the oil industry learned since the spill? Not much. Oil spills are still a regular occurrence. Just weeks ago, a tanker off the coast of Australia crashed, spilling more than 50,000 gallons of oil and shutting local fisheries.
Here in the Bay Area, memories of the 2007 Cosco Busan spill are still fresh: Oil slicked birds, blackened beaches, and a stifled crab season.
It's not just tanker accidents that pour oil into our oceans, threatening to destroy fisheries and the coastal economies that rely on them.
Since 1993, U.S. offshore drilling has sent an average of 47,800 barrels of oil a year into the sea, according to data from the Minerals Management Service. Offshore drilling platforms are particularly vulnerable to storms: The Coast Guard estimates that roughly 9 million gallons of oil were spilled during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita alone.
Contrary to what the oil industry would like us to believe, there is no effective method for cleaning up an oil spill. And where there are tankers and offshore drilling, there always will be spills.
Instead of opening the door to more Exxon-style disasters with expanded offshore drilling, we should be embracing the clean energy solutions that will keep our beaches and marine life safe.
More offshore drilling will do nothing to lower gas prices or create energy independence. It will only add to the billions of dollars that oil industry executives have raked in year after year.
Fortunately, the Obama administration understands that Americans want clean energy and the jobs that come with it, not more bloated oil industry profits.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that his agency will be working to develop more of our nation's clean energy resources. Salazar is also allowing expanded public scrutiny for the offshore drilling plan that President George W. Bush pushed through in his waning days in office.
On April 16, Salazar will hold a public hearing on offshore drilling here in San Francisco.
Bay Area residents who care about California's coasts should let Salazar know that we support the administration's commitment to renewable energy, and that we want to leave the drill-everywhere days of the Bush administration behind us.