Commentary

printed 12/07/2018

Without knowing the geological circumstances of what lies beneath the bottom of the ocean in the Mid-Atlantic region, it’s easy to condemn or endorse seismic testing to determine if big reservoirs of oil or gas exist somewhere off the coast.

The absence of scientific information on the area’s offshore oil prospects leaves the public to form opinions based on personal philosophies.

You’re either inclined or disinclined to believe that discovering oil is possible and a good thing, and you either buy or don’t buy the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s assertion that rules exist to protect marine mammals from the incessant and violent booming of airguns.

Most coastal residents think the latter, because they don’t trust government and have an affinity for whales, porpoises, seals and other awe-inspiring sea creatures.

But there is more to last week’s seismic testing decision than that. The big question is why large scale testing is on the federal agenda, when most oil companies are skeptical that anything will be found in this portion of the Mid-Atlantic?

That’s what Bloomberg News reported last January, while the American Petroleum Institute says the liklihood of finding anything is greater farther south.

That suggests opening the entire coast to testing is as much a sweeping political statement as it is anything else, and is part of the administration’s sounds-good-but-questionable “energy dominance” campaign.

It’s questionable because the U.S. already is the world’s leading producer of crude oil, according to a September report issued by the U.S. Energy Administration, which also announced in November that the country’s oil reserves have reached an all-time high.

So now the seismic testing issue comes down to one thing, which has nothing to do with science: is the need to find oil — maybe — greater than the risk, given the potential damage it could cause?

No. And that’s reason enough for anyone to oppose it.

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