Over the past two weeks, California has been suffering from the consequences of yet another horrendous oil spill.
A broken pipeline off the coast of Orange County, California, released nearly 25,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific, creating a 13-mile wide oil slick on the ocean’s surface. The catastrophic spill washed oil onto the shores of sun-kissed Huntington Beach, leading to beach closures. Wildlife and birds such as least terns, which live in the Talbert Marsh wetlands ecological reserve, are endangered, and their populations have already been decimated by habitat loss and spills in the Gulf of Mexico. Dead fish and birds have been washing up on California beaches, killed by the toxic oil wreaking havoc on their habitat.
The full ecological toll of this spill remains unknown and impacts will likely accumulate for months to come.
Unfortunately, this kind of disaster isn’t anything new. This latest spill is just one in the long and troubled history of offshore drilling in the United States. Some of the largest and most memorable oil disasters include the 1969 blowout of a Union Oil well off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill, and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to these major spill events, the United States sees thousands of smaller oil spills each and every year. Time and time again, the saying rings true: When we drill, we spill.
All these preventable disasters harm people and the planet. But oil’s impacts aren’t just catastrophic when we spill it. Even when oil reaches its destination safely, it’s either burned for energy, contributing to global warming pollution and unhealthy air, or turned into bottles and packaging that fuels our single-use plastic waste crisis.
It’s absurd that we continue to put our health, oceans and planet at perpetual risk when we can choose another path: clean and renewable energy.
There is absolutely no need to drill for oil along our fragile coasts when clean and renewable energy can power our nation many times over. America’s wind and solar resources are practically unlimited, and more than capable of meeting the electricity needs of all 50 states.
Clean electric solutions are ready to help Americans in every part of our lives. For instance, it turns out that we don’t need fossil fuels to get around. As electric vehicle costs have plummeted and the number of models available has boomed, cars and buses that can run on clean electric power have taken off. And, with affordable electric technologies increasingly available for our homes and businesses — from induction stoves to heat-pumps — it’s becoming clear that America doesn’t need oil to fuel our buildings either.
States across the country are already acting to tap the power of renewables. While California may still drill — and spill — oil, the Golden State is otherwise acting as a national leader in the transition to clean and renewable energy. California is one of nine states that has passed legislation committing to 100% clean electricity, and was one of the first to take that leap when SB100 was signed into law in 2018. California consistently ranks among the top states in the nation for its renewable energy adoption, and tops the charts for both solar energy growth over the last decade and cumulative electric vehicle sales through mid-2019.
All this begs the question: With renewable energy so abundant and our ability to harness it readily available, why are we still drilling?
It’s too late to protect Huntington Beach from this oil spill. But we can and must learn from it by putting an end to offshore drilling and repowering our nation with clean and renewable resources, instead. We’ll have a cleaner, healthier and safer world to show for it — one free from oil spills as well as the countless other environmental and human harms of dirty energy.
To stop spilling, we must first stop drilling.