BETHANY BEACH — Alan Muller is worried the federal government’s decision to open mid-Atlantic offshore waters to oil and gas exploration could negatively impact the quality of life for those who live along the Maryland and Delaware coast.
The move, announced by the Obama administration Wednesday, ends a long-standing moratorium on the search for gas and oil along the nation’s eastern seaboard, where researchers say production is possible, but narrow.
"Anything that goes up would have to be 50-100 miles off the coast and, as far as development goes, production there is limited," said Robert Diaz, a marine science professor at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., who held a conference on the subject in December 2008.
According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the federal agency responsible for managing oil and gas resources along the nation’s outer continental shelf, the mid-Atlantic region contains roughly 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Using 2009 standards, the nation consumes about 20 million barrels of oil and 60 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily.
Diaz said the impact on the region would be minimal, but felt mainly from transportation of materials and resources, not testing or production.
"If the boats are going to the Chesapeake Bay, then you’ll see it there. … Likewise, if they come down the Delaware Bay, they’ll feel the impact," he said. "That’s what you’ll see from the shore."
Al McMillian, a Frederick resident, said he regularly visits Ocean City to fish and escape the kind of water traffic seen in commercial-heavy areas of the Chesapeake Bay.
"The big boats are why I think most people come to this part of the beach," he said. "You don’t really see them as much as you would on the bay."
The announcement spurred promotion of alternative energy sources from environmental agencies like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and elected officials. Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman said the country should look toward alternative energy sources rather than fossil fuels to alleviate its dependence on foreign oil, which contributes to more than 97 percent of total production worldwide.
"Here in Delaware, we are pushing forward on the nation’s first offshore wind project," he said. "We believe that our oceans offer the promise of clean, renewable energy that will create jobs, cut our greenhouse gas emissions and move us toward energy independence."
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