It is extremely disappointing to see your paper perpetuating outdated and exaggerated fears of offshore drilling for oil ["Coastal Drilling," editorial, June 19].

You wrote that the outer continental shelf "has with some exceptions been off-limits even to exploration in recent years because of the environmental damage that oil spills and water pollution caused by drilling can do to coastlines and wildlife." You later stated that "if technology improves to a point where drilling is no longer potentially harmful and if oil prices rise to a point that make further drilling imperative, then there may be a need to lift the moratorium, at least in some places." These characterizations of offshore drilling do your readers a great disservice.

The fears about the environmental risks of drilling for and producing oil offshore were originally triggered by the notorious 1969 Santa Barbara, Calif., oil spill, in which significant quantities of oil from a well drilled in federal waters caused major damage to the state shoreline. But over the past 36 years, environmental protection technology for offshore drilling and production operations has improved in myriad ways.

Two studies by the National Research Council in 1985 and 2003 concluded that of all the oil spilled in the sea, a mere 3 percent results from offshore oil and gas drilling and production operations. This figure could rise to 4 or 5 percent if we include all pipeline spills, but the NRC did not differentiate between onshore and offshore pipeline spills. In comparison, the NRC studies concluded that about 45 percent of all the oil spilled in the sea results from tankers and other marine shipping activities.

Justin Blum recently pointed out [Business, June 7] that we are importing about 58 percent of our daily oil consumption, and that figure is expected to rise to 68 percent in the next 20 years. This shipping of oil into our country is the worst of all possible worlds from an environmental viewpoint, because of the NRC findings that shipping accounts for roughly 45 percent of the oil spilled into the sea.

It is evident, from the NRC studies, that producing oil from our offshore areas and bringing it to shore by pipeline would be much safer in terms of reducing risks to coastal resources. Yes, there are spills in offshore oil production, but they tend to be rather local and small in scale compared with a spill from a ruptured tanker carrying enough oil to ruin the coastline and economy of an entire state.

-- Carl W. Anderson

Falls Church