Off-Shore Drilling Environmentally Sound, Panel Says

By Michael Gryboski | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

( - Expanding oil drilling will not severely harm the environment or put alternative fuel investments at risk, some energy industry experts say.

The Institute for Energy Research (IER) responded to questions from various news reporters by way of a conference call on Tuesday. (The group maintains that freely-functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to global energy challenges.)

IER's Senior Vice President of Policy Daniel Kish asked about the environmental risk of oil drilling, said, "There's always a risk in any kind of energy development. Windmills kill birds."

Kish also noted that offshore oil drilling is preferable to importing oil supplies in tankers that could leak or spill their contents.

Offshore rigs proved themselves in the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Katrina. "We actually moved oil wells rigs out of the Gulf; they were blown out of the Gulf, and yet (there were) no oil spills at all because of the new techniques that have been used ever since the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969," Kish said.

The IER panel says increased oil production won't deter investment in alternative energy.

The investments being made in alternative fuels will continue, partly because of government mandates governing biofuels, for example, Senior Vice President of Public Policy William Koetzle told Cybercast News Service .

However the League of Conservation Voters sees it differently. In an interview with Cybercast News Service, LCV Press Secretary Joshua McNeil said that offshore oil drilling is an economic "threat to America's beaches and the billions of dollars in tourism that flows through Florida and California and other coastal areas.

"The threat of a spill is very real; they've happened in the past. In 1979, the largest man-made oil spill in history in the Gulf of Mexico caused untold damage to the Gulf and to Texas beaches, and so offshore drilling simply is an unnecessary risk to take," said McNeil.

Rather than expand oil drilling, McNeil sees alternative fuels as the solution for America's energy needs.

"The decision to fully invest in alternative fuels is at this moment up to Congress. Right now we're working to extend the tax credits for solar and wind production -- and independent of oil production, it's a priority for this country to start moving forward in developing fuels that can be produced right here at home, create good jobs, reduce global warming pollution, and help our economy overall," McNeil added.

"We've got to make decisions and Congress needs to make the right one in this case," he said.

"You still have occasional problems (with oil drilling)," an IER panel member said. But he added that's true in many areas: "Houses burn down and cars crash and airplanes fall out of the sky. You try to minimize those. We do it better here in the United States then any place in the world."

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