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Pro: Moratorium allows government to revamp regulation, paves road for clean energy

By JJ VELASQUEZ
June 20, 2010 at 1:20 a.m.


TIMELINEAPRIL 20: The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explodes. A U.S. Coast Guard search for the missing crewmen began by air and sea but, after three days, was called off. Yorktown native Adam Weise and Bay City native Jason Anderson are among the 11 deaths.

APRIL 24: Officials discover two leaks from a drilling pipe 5,000 feet below the surface. Lamentations over the deaths of the men and prayers for their families soon turn to worries about the dangerous effect the subsequent oil spill could have on the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico and domestic seafood production.

APRIL 25: The Gulf oil spill covers 600 square miles. Estimations of how much oil is being leaked into the Gulf increase week to week.

APRIL 30: President Obama orders Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar to prepare a report and evaluate if offshore drilling safety measures could be implemented.

MAY 27: After BP botches attempts to plug the leak, Obama announces a six-month moratorium on offshore drilling in deep water. The moratorium shuts down 23 rigs at depths of 500 feet or more, according to the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association.

JUNE 9: Seadrift shrimper Diane Wilson protests at a Senate Energy Committee hearing by pouring Karo syrup, meant to look like oil, on herself.

JUNE 16: A Seahawk Drilling rig off the shore of Cameron, La., shuts down, even though it drills in shallow water. Cuero native Thomas Webb is furloughed by the company because of confusion over new regulations and pending stipulations. The Louisiana Oil and Gas Association estimated the moratorium can affect up to 32,000 American jobs.

Seadrift shrimper Diane Wilson doused herself in what was intended to look like oil during a June 9 Senate Energy Committee hearing.

Wilson admits she goes to great lengths to make people pay attention to what she describes as our addiction to oil. But ever since the gushing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico captured the media spotlight, she doesn't need to bring attention to it.

"Finally, I get to talk about the issues I have been trying to scream about for the last 20 years," she said.

Wilson hopes the eventual outcome of the six-month offshore drilling moratorium, which calls an end to new drilling in water deeper than 500 feet, is a permanent ban on offshore drilling and a move to a cleaner energy source.

The moratorium came after cable news networks began showing a live feed of the leak, and news outlets around the world flocked to the shores of Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast to tell the stories of the environmental disaster.

"The writing's on the wall," she said. "If we have to be dragged kicking and screaming into a cleaner, greener energy source, we have to do it."

Donna Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the Texas chapter of the Sierra Club, agrees.

"Offshore drilling is not safe, and it may very well have caused the death of a large part of the Gulf of Mexico," she said. "We can't take that risk with our wildlife resources. It's extremely damaging to the economy of the Gulf region."

A native of Corpus Christi, Hoffman said Texas has many success stories when it comes to clean energy production.

Texas leads the nation in wind power generation, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Phasing out of oil as an energy source would not be economically problematic because clean energy will fuel a new green economy, she said.

Luke Metzger, spokesman for advocacy group Environment Texas, is not proposing the nation abandon oil as an energy resource. Rather, he hopes for a reduction in its use.

"Reducing our use of oil will have great benefits," he said.

Metzger said he hopes the president's commission conducts a thorough review of the government's permitting enforcement program to ensure that "agencies are a watchdog and not a partner of the oil and gas industry."

Related story: Con: Moratorium on offshore drilling stifles economic growth, increases our dependency on foreign oil

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