Offshore oil drilling puts at grave risk one of California’s largest yet most fragile economic assets. (Courtesy photo)

Offshore drilling poses an unnecessary, unacceptable economic risk

What would the Golden State be without our beautiful coast?

California’s coast is a gold mine, so to speak. What would the Golden State be without our beautiful coast and coastal communities?

I am the President and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. We represent the interests of our community and hundreds of businesses that benefit from tourism, recreation, construction, fishing and so much more. We know how invaluable the coast is for everyone in California. California’s coast produces $44 billion in economic output, according to the National Ocean Economics Program.

As we await the next iteration of the federal government’s plan to open up our coast to expanded offshore drilling, I want to say that it’s a bad deal for California’s thriving economy.

California’s ocean tourism and recreation economy alone are worth $24 billion – over 10 times more than the offshore oil economy – and employs over 63 times more Californians than those working in offshore oil. And as a reflection of California dynamism, ocean tourism provides powerful reverberations inland, boosting business from wineries to amusement parks to hiking outfitters.

Offshore oil drilling puts at grave risk one of our state’s largest yet most fragile economic assets – the Pacific Ocean and its 3,400-mile California coastline.

We have already seen how offshore drilling harms communities and local economies. A half-century ago, an oil rig blowout off the Santa Barbara coast spewed 3 million gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean. At the time, it was the largest oil spill in American history. More recently, in 2015, about 100,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from a pipeline above Highway 101 in Santa Barbara. Instead of watching whales, disappointed tourists watched containment booms being deployed in a futile effort to clean up the oil. Fishing areas were closed, beaches were evacuated and campgrounds were cleared, all to the detriment of local businesses. Experiences like these are why roughly two-thirds of all Californians – including those who live inland – have said in polls that they oppose expanded offshore drilling. Instead of new oil drilling, we want to keep building our thriving clean energy economy, which already employs a half a million Californians producing domestic, pollution-free energy every day.

Because of these unnecessary, unacceptable risks, more and more West Coast businesses are speaking out against expanding offshore oil drilling. For example, the Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast (BAPPC), a leading business coalition opposing expanded drilling has membership representing over 3000 west coast businesses. They all oppose what would be the first federal lease sales off the California coast since 1984, and the first off Oregon and Washington since 1964.

What makes any added investment in offshore oil drilling even more unnecessary from a California business perspective is that our state is by far the national leader in clean energy. Why would we double-down on old energy risks when California already leads in innovating and developing many of the world’s most advanced clean energy technologies?

Like all businesses in California, we support pro-business policies that create jobs and grow our local and state economies. Like all Californians we want to protect our beautiful coast. This means all Californians have to oppose the efforts of the federal government to open our coasts and communities to more offshore drilling. We must contact our Congressional representatives to urge them to stop the administration’s plan to offer the first federal lease sales off the coast of California since 1984.

It just doesn’t make business sense to harm the coasts for energy of the past. We need to move toward our clean energy future.

Rodney Fong is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

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