(by Peter Ferrara, Spectator.org) – The oil spill off the coast of Louisiana is an environmental tragedy that endangers the prosperity of coastal businesses that thrive on the natural environment, such as fishing and tourism. It is not a reason to permanently deny America the jobs and prosperity that come from a vibrant energy industry producing much needed, reliable, low cost energy from all sources. That would be a far bigger tragedy, even graver than the oil spill.

A robust, booming, American energy industry would itself contribute directly to a booming American economy. If America was the world’s number one oil producer, just think what that would mean in terms of higher GDP, national income, and high paying jobs. Now suppose America was the world’s number one natural gas producer as well, and the number one coal producer, and the number one producer of nuclear power. This all can and should be true.

Moreover, think what that would mean for the prosperity of the economy as a whole. Reliable supplies of low cost energy promote booming economic growth, particularly in the manufacturing sector that so many people profess to be concerned about. Reliable, low cost energy means oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power.

I am not saying we should not produce renewable, alternative energy as well. By all means, go ahead, knock yourself out. Neither government nor anyone else should stand in your way. If we saw half as much doing in regard to such alternative energy as we see talking about it, we would surely have produced more real progress by now. And I am not saying we are not doing anything.


We Can Do Better

These big coastal oil spills off America’s coasts have been limited to one every 20 years. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that from 1985 to 2001, our offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico produced 7 billion barrels of oil, with an oil spill rate of .0001%. A 2002 National Academy of Sciences report found that only 1% of offshore oil discharges in North America are due to petroleum extraction, with 62% due to natural seepage. The current Gulf spill is equal to about 5% of such total annual seepage.

Cuba announced last year an agreement to allow Russia to explore for oil and gas off its coast, as close as 45 miles from American shores. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the field to be drilled includes 5 billion barrels of oil and 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The U.S. Export-Import Bank is lending $2 billion to Brazil for oil drilling off its coast. President Obama has touted Denmark as a model for America because of its wind power production. But Denmark is one of the world’s biggest offshore oil producers, due to drilling in the stormy North Sea.

By all means, we should thoroughly investigate the murky cause of the explosion that resulted in the Gulf oil spill, and then apply our most advanced, modern technical skills to do our best to prevent such a spill from happening again. But we should not let environmental extremists continue to hamper American energy production and prosperity. Instead, we must maximize American energy production from all sources, and America’s world leading economic prosperity.

Peter Ferrara is director of entitlement and budget policy at the Institute for Policy Innovation, a policy advisor to the Heartland Institute, and general counsel of the American Civil Rights Union. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under the first President Bush. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

NOTE: This is an excerpt of a much longer commentary.  To read the entire commentary, go to spectator.org/archives/2010/05/05/keep-the-lights-on.

First published on Spectator.org May 5, 2010.  Reprinted here May 6, 2010 with permission from The American Spectator. Visit the website at Spectator.org.


1. Mr. Ferrara acknowledges that the oil spill off the coast of Louisiana is “an environmental tragedy that endangers the prosperity of coastal business that thrive on the natural environment.” What reasons does he give for his belief that this spill should not put an end to offshore oil drilling? (his 5 reasons are listed in paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6)

2. Have you heard/read any of these reasons in any of the news reports you’ve seen on the oil spill?

3. Do you think Mr. Ferrara makes a persuasive argument for the continuation of off-shore drilling? Explain your answer.