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Most Americans understand the need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and provide the extra supply of oil and natural gas to lower our energy costs. The Mineral Management Services (MMS), an agency of the Department of Interior, estimates that the OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) contains enough natural gas to heat 100 million homes for 60 years or enough oil to replace current Persian Gulf imports for 59 years. Unfortunately the federal government has held back 80% of the country's OCS from oil and gas exploration and production. But despite these findings, there are those from radical environmental groups that oppose critical access to domestic oil and natural gas, claiming they are protecting the environment.
Actually the facts tell us that offshore rigs and platforms can be beneficial to marine wildlife. Once in place, the platform's substructure acts as an "artificial reef," providing hard surfaces for encrusting organisms such as spiny oysters, barnacles, sponges, and corals.
These creatures are the basis of the food chain in what becomes a new marine ecosystem for numerous types of fish, sharks, sea turtles, spiny lobsters, and sea urchins, so basically speaking,the rigs create critical two factors for marine life: Shelter and food. The food chain begins with the formation of barnacles on these structures below the waterline. This sets the stage for small fish seeking shelter and food that the steel legs provide. Many local Gulf coast scuba divers enjoy underwater visits to Gulf platforms to sight-see tropical fish and organisms normally associated with natural reef systems located in the Caribbean and far away places. Local divers call these trips "Rig Diving" because the word rig is commonly used in place of platform.
The areas of the Gulf Coast that have access to the platforms have seen increased business due to the popularity of “rig” diving, that means the platforms are not only beneficial to the environment but also good for local economies, attracting new tourist to Gulf Coast towns. Also new technologies make platforms safer from oil leaks, automatic well-head cut-off valves keep oil under the seabed if the rig or platform breaks away. Investigations showed that there was no significant environmental damage from the offshore platforms despite two Category 5 hurricanes last year in the Gulf. Actually, the only oil spills after the hurricanes came from beached oil tankers damaged from the storms and not from the platform pipes themselves. Also, all proposed drilling areas would have platforms very far from the field of vision from coastal beaches as not to have any impact people enjoying their “day at the beach.”
Allowing greater access to the outer continental shelf for new oil and natural gas exploration is a win-win for Americans; less dependence on dangerous foreign dictators holding us hostage with oil prices, and creating beneficial artificial reefs for marine wildlife.