Why is offshore drilling so controversial?
offshore drilling rig

Offshore rigs like this one are the source of many heated discussions.

David McNew/Getty Images

Whether you cheered when Gov. ­Sarah Palin famously exclaimed, "Drill, baby, drill!" or slapped your palm to your forehead in horror, you heard a lot about offshore drilling in 2008. Even before the issues of oil and taxes dueled for time during the U.S. presidential election, drivers were emptying their wallets at the pump and wondering wh­en gas prices would stop climbing higher (and sighing with relief when the price of oil dropped precipitously). Along with developing alternative fuel sources, lifting the ban on offshore drilling was one often-proposed solution for cutting gas prices and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

­To be clear, offshore drilling, or drilling for oil underwater, is already happening on about 40 million acres of the U.S. outer continental shelf, or OCS. It's just that it's not enough, according to some. Drilling advocates are pressing to open much more of the country's protected coastline to oil exploration. Opponents are pushing back -- hard. And like any spirited argument, the two sides can't agree on anything. Not the amount of potential oil to be recovered. Not the environmental impact of offshore drilling. And not the effect it would have on prices at the pump. But make up your own mind and read Why is offshore drilling so controversial?