Otters were well represented at last week’s public meeting in San Francisco, hosted by new Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. The meeting was part of an effort by the Department of the Interior to consider public input on proposed energy development in the Outer Continental Shelf. This traditionally means oil and gas drilling, but as a sign of the times, the most recent Draft Proposed Plan includes renewable energy exploration such as wind farms and wave energy.
The Otter Project and the Monterey Coastkeeper were both on hand to say no to oil and talk about how we should best proceed with renewables–although there was a lot of No for Oil Yes for Renewables, a lot of speakers also recognized that it’s a little more complicated then that! While we’re all for getting off oil–in all its environmentally degrading glory–we, along with several other speakers, noted the importance of protecting habitat and sensitive eco-systems along the coast. Any development in these sensitive habitats should proceed with cuation.
We’re particularly concerned with wave energy proposals that are being pushed forward at an alarming pace. While wave energy sounds enticing (I mean, you don’t get much cooler then that), in reality, it is relatively untested. Proposed designs show milesw of cables stretching across stretches of ocean that could block whale migrations and other wildlife processes. And as Steve pointed out, previously tested projects either sank, or produced so little energy as to make the investment questionable.
Does this mean we’re against renewables? Absolutely not! We refuse to be put in the narrow box of for and against. If the rush to development that got us into this mess in the first place taught us anything, it should be that seemingly good ideas can have unintented consequences. Climate change is a huge problem that MUST be tackeled, but let’s not throw the sea otter out with the bathwater! The need to procede with caution, transparency and due public process is more important then ever.