Obama and the Sonic Cannon

  Last month on the 17th President Obama announced that through executive order he would create the world’s largest marine protected area in the Pacific Ocean. But this move wasn’t quite complete. The President has not determined what the size of the area will be or what specific statute it will be created under.

So fast forward to now … but not too fast or you might not even see it. What is it? It’s an announcement on a mid-Summer Friday of a thorough and specific ocean plan for the Atlantic. Obama just got the ball rolling on opening the Atlantic Coast to oil drilling exploration. The current prohibition will be lifted on the area from Delaware to Florida.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management [BOEM] gave oil companies permission to scan the ocean floor for oil and gas deposits using powerful sonic blasts – a technology that the government estimates could harm nearly 140,000 sea creatures, including endangered whales and sea turtles, the Associated Press first reported.

This is a step in eventually allowing oil companies to apply for federal drilling leases in 2018.Some Florida elected officials and environmentalists are already letting it be known they are unhappy with this move. I’d guess they haven’t gotten over  the Deepwater Horizon disaster in Florida as quickly as Washington has.

The “sonic cannons” or “seismic air guns” used in this process fire shockwaves beneath the ocean floor. This produces waves of sound (100 times louder than a jet engine) that then bounce back to the surface. The BOEM acknowledges potential risks to sea life, but claim they have developed a “balanced approach” to help understand the potential offshore resource. Survey results will also map marine habitats and other undersea data but will remain proprietary corporate secrets disclosed only to the government.  

Balanced approach to coastal risks but export oil, baby, export. All this “sonic cannon” exploration comes while the 1975 ban on shipping US crude overseas continues to erode. Some policy makers and the oil industry are almost delirious at the prospect of loading US oil into tankers and sending it overseas to sell.  

At a White House ceremony celebrating this yet-to-be-planned marine life protection area in the Pacific Ocean, Obama recalled:

“Growing up in Hawaii, I learned early to appreciate the beauty and power of the ocean,”

Well, you know the ocean’s beauty and power are one thing but, whoa, how about that “sonic cannon?” Obama saveth in the Pacific and selleth in the Atlantic, yet the world’s oceans are all one. Ah, trade-offs.  

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