An oil pipeline off of the Orange County coast leaked, causing an oil spill. The pipeline leaked 144,000 gallons of oil, as of October 6. The 18-mile pipeline goes from the offshore drilling platforms of Amplify Energy to a Long Beach pump station. Beta Offshore, a subsidiary of Amplify Energy, first noticed an oil sheen about four miles off the coast on October 2 and notified the U.S. Coast Guard, according to a statement.
The oil spill killed birds, fish, and other marine life. It threatens ecosystems and reached the Huntington Beach shoreline, causing beach closures. California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Orange County.
No safe way to drill or transport fossil fuels
The Orange County oil spill highlights the danger involved in drilling and transporting fossil fuels. Monica Embrey, Senior Associate Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign, asks, “How many of these oil disasters do we have to witness before our elected leaders understand that there is no safe way to drill or transport dirty fossil fuels?” The current oil spill is “yet another reminder that we can have healthy and safe communities, thriving coastal economies, and a stable climate–or we can continue drilling for oil,” according to Embrey. “It’s long past time to choose a transition away from dirty oil drilling and toward a healthier, safer, clean energy future.”
Damon Nagami, senior attorney and director of the Southern California ecosystems project for Natural Resources Defense Council, recommends that the Biden administration should start making decisions about leasing federal waters by canceling the Gulf of Mexico lease sale on November 17. “This disaster proves that the risks are real,” said Nagami. “And the costs are simply unacceptable.”
The West Coast Ocean Protection Act
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the West Coast Ocean Protection Act in January while Rep. Jared Huffman introduced similar legislation in the House. The bill would permanently ban offshore drilling off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington. In January, President Biden issued an executive order that placed a temporary moratorium on new federal oil and gas drilling leases, which include the west coast. The West Coast Ocean Protection Act makes the moratorium permanent in federal west coast waters.
The oil and gas lease sale in November signals that Biden’s moratorium is over, which makes it urgent to pass the bill in order to protect the west coast from having another oil spill.
Transitioning to a fossil fuel free future
The energy sector accounts for three-quarters of greenhouse emissions. Limiting average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius requires “nothing less than a complete transformation of how we produce, transport, and consume energy,” according to a report International Energy Agency.
The report by the IEA notes that climate change commitments made fall short of what is needed to reach global net-zero emissions by 2050. Reaching net-zero emission requires a “massive deployment of all available and clean efficient energy technologies.” Part of that massive deployment should include limiting or providing disincentives for the use of fossil fuels.
It is possible to create and fulfill green new deal roadmaps for 143 countries that are collectively responsible for 99.7 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to a World Economic Forum report. The countries would switch to 100 percent renewable wind, water, and solar power by 2050, with at least 80 percent renewables by 2030.
Solar and wind have a much higher potential than fossil fuels and can meet global energy demand, according to a report by Carbon Tracker. Current technology deployed in certain locations can capture at least 6,700 petawatt hours from solar and wind, which is over 100 times the current global energy demand.