Why Offshore Wind Energy Is a No-Brainer Compared to Offshore Oil Drilling

Juxtaposing the Cape offshore wind project with the Gulf oil spill points to a clear winner when it comes to choosing our energy future.
By Janet Larsen, Earth Policy Institute
May 12, 2010
Add to My MSN

U.S. wind energy potential for offshore resources alone is four times our current electricity use.
PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO/EUGENE SUSLO
Slideshow


Content Tools

Related Content

Has the Gulf Oil Spill Affected Your Stance on Increasing Domestic Drilling?

In light of the environmental, economic and other damage caused by the Gulf oil spill, has your opin...

As Gas Prices Rise, Is Offshore Drilling the Answer?

Amid rising gas prices, some people think offshore drilling in America is the answer, but is it wort...

Essential Oils on the Homestead

Therapeutic grade essential oils have a tonne of uses on the homestead - here's how we've used them ...

Offshore Drilling Battle Gets Slimy

On Sept. 30, the offshore drilling moratorium expired, and the energy battle between the Democrats a...

The enormously devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is just one reminder that stretching out an addiction to a polluting and planet-warming fossil fuel poses risks to our health, our environment and our economy.

U.S. oil production peaked in 1970 at 9.6 million barrels per day. Since then production has dropped by almost half and now supplies less than 30 percent of domestic consumption. In 2009, the United States spent nearly $200 billion on oil imports to make up the difference.

With oil wells on land getting tapped out, U.S. oil production would have fallen off even more precipitously than it did if not for offshore oil drilling. Offshore oil production now comprises about a third of the U.S. total. Yet remaining resources are limited and are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. As BP’s inability to staunch the Deepwater Horizon oil spill starkly illustrates, controlling extraction from almost a mile below the sea surface is incredibly difficult and dangerous.

The era of “easy” oil is over. As Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, recommends for the world, “We should not cling to crude down to the last drop — we should leave oil before it leaves us.”

Fortunately there are alternatives. Much of the U.S. oil consumption of nearly 20 million barrels a day goes to run vehicles, the same vehicles that get city commuters stuck in traffic for a cumulative 4.2 billion hours a year, costing society some $87 billion, according to the Texas Transportation Institute. To cut dependence on oil, transportation options can be expanded beyond single-passenger vehicles to bus rapid transit, light rail, high speed rail, and space for bicycles and pedestrians.

Even though the U.S automobile fleet shrank by four million vehicles last year, cars will not disappear completely anytime soon. However, the fleet can be cleaned up by marrying the electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles now starting to come to market to renewably produced electricity. The U.S. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory estimates that the current electrical infrastructure could power over 80 percent of the U.S. car fleet, relying largely on off-peak electricity as cars are charged at night. Upgrading to a stronger, smarter, and interconnected national grid that taps into the country’s enormous wind, solar and geothermal resources completes the transition.

While oil resources are limited, wind resources are abundant and inexhaustible. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that the world’s top carbon emitters have enough wind energy potential to meet their current electricity needs many times over. The United States’ total wind potential is estimated at 22 times current electricity use. For China the wind resource potential is 15 times greater than the country’s current electricity consumption, and for Russia, it is a staggering 170 times higher.

Looking at offshore wind energy resources alone, the U.S. potential is four times current electricity use. For Canada, offshore wind is a whopping 39 times greater.
To date, almost all the offshore wind energy creation has been in Europe, but that may soon change. China and Japan have just begun developing offshore wind. With the recent approval of the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, along with proposals by Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island and other states, the United States may join the game as well.

Unlike oil, wind is widely distributed and clean; it does not spill or disrupt climate. It is also becoming increasingly cheap. With wind, we have a well that will not run dry.


Sign up for the Earth Policy News e-mail list. You’ll receive Eco-Economy Updates, Eco-Economy Indicators and Book Bytes. You’ll also get press releases and learn about new books the Earth Policy Institute has released.

Previous | 1 | 2 | Next






Post a comment below.

 

joe z
4/11/2012 5:35:41 PM
To bad Scotland doesn't brag. Considering by 2020 they will be getting 100% of the energy fron alternatives and most of that from wind. They are now have over 80%.

TexasJack
6/14/2010 4:36:20 PM
As an oilfield worker who knew one of the 11 wrokers who died on the TransOcean rig, and who has worked offshore himself on one of the 3,000+ rigs in the western Gulf of Mexico, one catastrophic blowout caused by human error and shortcuts in the drilling procedures by BP, TransOcean, and Halliburton, most of the problems of working in 5,000+ feet of water can be avoided if the Fed opened up more of the land under their control in the continental U.S, Alaska, nat'l forests, nat'l rec areas, and nat'l wilderness areas where safeguards can be put in place to guarantee what is happening in the Mexican Gulf doesn't happen elsewhere. Despite your desires to the otherwise, our nation, industrial base, ability to feed ourselves & the world, and our economy runs on fossil fuels (petroleum, nat-gas, coal). Solar, wind, geothermal, wave action, nuke power can lessen dependency on domestic and foreign fossil fuels but with the thousands of products derived from this resource, those other energy resources cannot sustain us. Believing it does is a misnomer disconnect with reality..!!

Tom_72
5/17/2010 1:56:59 PM
Have you ever heard of an off shore wind generator pumping billions of gallons of crude oil into any waterway?








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.