Sierra Club

Having trouble receiving our e-mail? Try adding us ( to your Address Book.

Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet


For Immediate Release:
August 28, 2008

Contact: David Willett, 202-675-6698

Katrina Anniversary a Reminder of True Cost of Drilling
McCain Omits that Communities pay while only Big Oil Benefits

Oily sludge left behind in a Louisiana home after Katrina tipped a Murphy Oil Storage Tank

New Orleans, LA: When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29 2005, millions of people suffered a tremendous loss. This tragedy was only compounded by incompetent government response both in the immediate aftermath of and in the long-term recovery from the historic storm.
In the three years since Katrina struck, numerous problems have surfaced related to government inaction and official misinformation ranging from the problem of formaldehyde in emergency housing, and now to myths about whether the hurricane really did cause any oil spills along the Gulf Coast.

As we reach the anniversary, our Presidential candidates should be talking about ways to get our government working for people again. But John McCain and other supporters of more off-shore drilling are trying to re-write history and perversely use Katrina as evidence that drilling and oil spills aren’t threats.  

Fact--Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Caused Oil Spills and damage to both off-shore rigs and on-shore infrastructure:

  • More than 9,000,000 gallons of oil were spilled as a result of the two storms. 
    (Source: U.S. Coast Guard)
  • Hurricanes Katrina and Rita alone "totally destroyed" 113 off-shore oil platforms. One platform drifted 66 nautical miles before running aground on a beach in Alabama.  Hurricane Dennis in 2005 nearly destroyed the then brand-new, state-of-the-art $1 billion Shell Thunder Horse platform—the largest of its kind in the world.   
    (Source: Minerals Management Service)

Yet at campaign events last month, John McCain said, “I would remind you that off the coast of Louisiana and Texas, they both had hurricanes that did not cause any real difficulties. So the environmental side of it I think is pretty well okay.”  Two days later he said, “I'm aware that off the coast of Louisiana and Texas there are oil rigs, as we well know, and those rigs have survived very successfully the impacts of hurricanes, Hurricane Katrina as far as Louisiana is concerned.” (campaign events 7/15 and 7/18/08)

Case Study:  Murphy oil spill in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana

Most Americans remember seeing the oil rigs tossed by the hurricane—including the PSS Chemul that crashed into Cochrane bridge. An often-overlooked element of off-shore drilling is the on-shore infrastructure for storing and refining the crude oil extracted from the coast.  One of the worst oil spill disasters caused by Hurricane Katrina occurred when a storage tank at the Murphy Refinery was tipped over by the hurricane.  The accident caused over twenty-five thousand barrels of mixed crude oil to spill into a square mile of the already flooding community. The thick oil mixed with water and seeped into peoples’ homes and cars (pictured above), leaving permanent damage and a sticky dark line marking where the oil had been.  Yet John McCain and other drilling supporters continue to claim that off-shore drilling is perfectly safe.

The bottom line is that drilling can’t produce enough, takes too long, and only benefits Big Oil.  Everyone wants solutions, but we need solutions that work for everyone.

Clean Energy is the Solution:

John McCain has completely failed to learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina which show just how risky more off-shore drilling can be. Despite McCain’s false claims to the contrary, Katrina knocked much of the Gulf Coast energy operations off line, stopped oil and gas supplies, sent gas prices skyrocketing, and reminded us of the heavy price we pay for policies that increase, rather than reduce, our dangerous dependence on oil.

McCain is wrong--increased drilling won't solve the problem or benefit regular Americans-- but it will increase oil industry profits. Americans want a clean energy economy. A recent national energy poll indicates that 83% of Americans support a plan to end our addiction to oil through investments in clean energy some 20% more than those who support increased off-shore drilling.

Instead of the failed policies of the past, it's time to break our addiction to fossil fuels by shifting our priorities, and our policies, toward clean energy like wind and solar power and efficiency measures. A serious national commitment to renewable energy will put our economy back on the path to prosperity by bringing energy costs under control, creating over 820,000 new jobs, and making us energy independent.

Here are the facts:

  • More oil drilling will not lower gas prices or create energy independence. It will only make the world's richest oil companies richer.The U.S. sits on less than 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. Even if we drill every corner of America, the oil will amount to a drop in the bucket globally and won't have an impact on prices on the world market.
  • More drilling doesn't mean paying less. Even as the Bush administration has opened more of America to drilling, gas prices have continued to climb.
  • There is no guarantee that if we drill our coasts, the oil won't just be shipped abroad. Vice President Dick Cheney had to retract his claim that other countries like China are already drilling off our coasts because it's not true. BUT, oil from new leases could be sold to other countries-there's no guarantee the oil would stay in the U.S.
  • There isn't much left of America that isn't already open to oil drilling. Oil companies aren't drilling what's already available. Oil companies are already sitting on 68 million acres of leases they aren't even drilling. Instead of drilling there, they just want to get their hands on the last places that are protected - our natural treasures, wildlife refuges, and pristine coastlines.

Barack Obama will help America’s families cope with rising energy costs and tough times by changing our energy policies now. He will expand our energy options and invest in a clean energy future that will create goodpaying jobs that won’t be outsourced jobs that our nation so desperately needs. John McCain was once willing to stand up to his own party, but now that he is running for President, he supports the same Bush policies and powerful special interests that put us in the grip of the oil companies.

Paid for by the Sierra Club Political Committee,, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.


Sign up for Raw


Sierra Club | 85 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94105 | Change Media Type | Contact Us | Visit the Press Room

Update My Profile | Manage My Email Preferences | Update My Interests | Unsubscribe