For the first time in decades, the eastern seaboard is open for offshore oil exploration. Today, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy and Management approved the use of sonic cannons to discover oil and gas deposits under the ocean.

The controversial sonic cannons are often employed by energy companies in the western Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Alaska and other offshore oil operations throughout the world.

The controversy surrounds the sonic cannons effect on sea life. The bureau’s own environmental impact study estimates that more than 100,000 sea creatures could be harmed. The biggest concern surrounds about 10 North Atlantic right whales in the area. North Atlantic right whales number just 500.

“No one has been allowed to test anything like this on right whales,” Scott Kraus, a right whale expert at the John H. Prescott Marine Laboratory in Boston, told the AP. “(The Obama administration) has authorized a giant experiment on right whales that this country would never allow researchers to do.”

Whale-spotting observers are a requirement on ships utilizing the sonic cannons. Hopefully, these observers can prevent any lasting impact to whales in the region.

How do these cannons work? They shoot sound waves much louder than a jet engine to the sea floor. The sound pulses go beneath the seafloor and then bounce back towards the surface, where computers turn the data into 3-D images.

“It’s like a sonogram of the earth,” Andy Radford, a petroleum engineer at the American Petroleum Institute, told the AP. “You can’t see the oil and gas, but you can see the structures in the earth that might hold oil and gas.”

These sonic cannons will be deployed across waters stretching from Florida to Delaware. They’ll be used for weeks and months at a time causing potentially devastating damage to sea life in the area.

As always, the needs of the economy trump the needs of the environment. Just don’t expect any relief at the pump. Consumer needs never fit into any equation.

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