President Ronald Reagan on Offshore Drilling

iStock_000019867996_SmallInterview With Jerry Rankin of the Santa Barbara News-Press
February 13, 1985

California Offshore Oil Drilling

Q. Well, let me ask you a couple of questions about oil, which is of some interest to us out in Santa Barbara. Is there any spot from your property that you can actually see the oil platforms out in the ocean?

The President. Oh, yes, because those that are up, further up -- I'm always tempted to say north, but actually it's west, as the coastline there runs -- --

Q. Right, exactly. A true Santa Barbara resident knows the directions.

The President. But, we can see them, because from our ranch -- and that's one of the reasons why, when you asked a little while ago about Palm Springs -- no, I couldn't get that far from the ocean. There are spots on our ranch for riding when we can see both the Santa Barbara Channel and the Santa Ynez Valley at the same time. We just have to turn our heads.

Q. Can you see as far as Goleta? Like Storke Tower on the campus? Or is that a little too far down?

The President. No, we can't see that, never see that, but we see all the way to Anacapa, out to the Anacapa rocks -- --

Q. That's very good -- --

The President. -- -- the coastal islands. We're at -- we're about 2,400 feet at the ranch. But we see those derricks.

Q. When you see those, obviously, you must think about this business of the drilling in the channel. Some people in Santa Barbara, including some businessmen, say, ``Well, let's explore -- find out where the oil is, but not drill, not actually put it out. Let's hold it in reserve, because of the danger to the economy if there were another spill.'' Obviously, do you think that's possible, or realistic?

The President. I think they're ignoring one thing we found out at the time of the spill, because I was Governor at that time. And we sent -- incidentally, that was a Federal lease that leaked. And we found out at that time and they, themselves, told us that had they known the regulations on State leases, had followed the same regulations, there never would have been a spill. So, the Federal Government at that time -- the Nixon administration -- they adopted for Federal leasing -- we still do -- the same standards and requirements the State imposes.

Now the Federal Government has about 16 platforms off the coast of California, as increasing by some -- and they seem, we seem now, the Federal Government, to be getting all the attention and abuse. But there are several hundred wells that are State leases that have been there for quite some time. But when we sent the experts in -- and they weren't buddies of ours -- we sent scientists from the university campuses of California in to study this whole area and the problem. And they came back with one unanimous recommendation -- drill, get the oil out. They said the bottom of the channel is badly fractured. There are 16 permanent oil slicks that have been there as long as the memory of man.

Q. Yes.

The President. And they said the safest thing you can do is get that oil pumped out of there because there could be a natural disaster -- I'm sure they were speaking of an earthquake at that fractured bottom -- that would create a disaster of such dimensions that you could never get a -- the previous oil strike, or leak, as far as I can learn, was only about 790 barrels of oil. Now we're taking out tens of thousands of barrels. But their recommendation was drill, get it out, and remove that permanent threat that lies off the coast.

Q. But also, it's, of course, the policy of the administration to go after the off-shore oil, even though -- which reminds me that we've got a glut now in the world of oil that doesn't show any signs of slacking off. It may happen. And so a lot of people say -- and, again, we get letters to the editor -- --

The President. But we don't -- --

Q. -- -- ``Why drill with this glut?''

The President. Well, we've offered oil lands for lease, and they've turned it down. There have been no takers.

But here's another thing. The same people can't scream about the trade deficit, the imbalance of trade, when 50 percent of that is the oil that we have to import.

Now, wouldn't it make more sense for us -- we've already reduced considerably the amount of oil that we have to import, making ourselves closer to self-sufficient. But from a security standpoint, from even the balance in trade, it would make much more sense for us to be producing the oil ourselves than having to go out and buy it.

Q. There's an ongoing debate, I guess, perpetual in Santa Barbara -- some people say, ``Oh, those platforms are ugly as sin.'' Other people say, ``Well, they're not. Jeez, at night, they're beautiful.'' What do you think about them? Which side of the debate do you come down on?

The President. I have to say, you know, I think this is really reaching to say that some structure out there that far out in the ocean -- when you've got that whole expanse of ocean -- it isn't as if you were looking at the ocean through a little frame, and now somebody put something in the way.

And I once said to people that were complaining, I said, ``You know, we've got a lot of freighters, those liberty freighters, up in mothball. Why don't we bring down some and anchor them between the shore and the oil derrick? And then the people would see a ship, and they wouldn't find anything wrong with that at all.'' Or they don't mind seeing piers that go out a half or a quarter mile into the ocean. And why, I don't find them -- and then, as you say, at night -- I know one lovely old lady there who automatically complained in the daytime because she could see this derrick from her place. And then it was one of them that I guess they -- no, it was when they were drilling, and then, when they evidently didn't find oil, then they left. Then, she said, ``I miss the lights at night.'' [Laughter]

Q. Of course, the great solution would be to drill -- the rigs underneath the water, so we wouldn't have to see the platforms.

The President. Yes.

Q. But, of course, the expenses of that are -- --

The President. I know that there have been times when -- --

Q. -- -- outrageous.

The President. There have been times when some people in the business have talked about the possibility of submerged parts. Of course, there, you look at it in another way, too, what if you have -- nothing's perfect -- what if you have an accident there and then how do you deal -- --

Q. How do you -- exactly.

The President. Hundreds of feet down in the ocean.

Note: The interview began at 11 a.m. on board Air Force One en route to California. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview, which was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on February 17.

Excerpt taken from The Reagan Library Presidential Archives

National Ocean Industries Association
1120 G Street, NW • Suite 900
Washington, DC 20005

Phone: 202.347.6900 | Email: