Accepting the risk of energy

Published 7:37 pm Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Drilling for oil and natural gas off the Virginia/North Carolina coast would take at least 10-15 years to begin making any type of tangible difference. That’s if it started today, or tomorrow, or any time relatively soon, which it won’t.

One time a few years ago here in our small newsroom, we had a busted printer. Someone suggested sending it back to the manufacturer to get it fixed.

“But it’ll take two or three weeks to get it back” was the first answer from someone else.

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Fine, so without doing anything, in two or three weeks we’ll still have a useless printer sitting there, I thought.

Getting reelected — the first job of any politician — is easier to achieve with short-term accomplishments. Projects, accomplishments — or simply stuff that can be held, seen and felt right now — is easier to take credit for than saying “this was a really important thing to do, for 2035 and beyond.”

If oil and natural gas drilling off the mid-Atlantic coast was a small part of a long-term solution to energy resources and costs, and it’s something President Obama and Governor McDonnell agree and can work together on, then for once, hip, hip, hooray for government and bipartisanship.

Otherwise, we’ll have no added resources or decrease in the cost of gas and we’ll continue having to act as though Saudi Arabia is a good, trusting friend.

Our governor jumped on the issue, pointing out the financial benefit to the commonwealth first and foremost. Perhaps he’s right on that, although I’m sure the likes of Exxon and Shell will have plenty to say about their take in the equation.

As important as making a buck is the chance to be a leader. Californians didn’t want oil wells off their coast. In Massachusetts, even windmills off the shore were too ugly to put up with for the greater good.

With drilling and oil come risk. The same is true with coal, as we were tragically reminded on Monday in West Virginia. Nuclear energy has its own set of risks. When there’s a source of energy that involves no risk and is financially viable, someone please feel free to let everyone in on the secret.

Nuclear? It’s efficient. It’s affordable. It’s even green.

Steve Vaughn, in a column in the Virginia Gazzette, writes “(Virginia’s) most valuable energy resource may lay in Pittslyvania County. There are deposits of uranium there. So far, the state has chosen not to allow a license for uranium mining.”

This is my third decade in Virginia, and I didn’t know that. At the least it’s very interesting. At the most, it’s something our governor should fast-track along with — and not instead of — drilling for oil and natural gas.

Andrew Giermak is sports editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. He can be reached at