The Obama administration is opening the Eastern Seaboard to oil exploration for the first time in decades, it announced today, and it's approving the use of a controversial sonic cannon in the effort. Companies will be able to apply for permits from Delaware to Florida in 2018, when the current moratorium ends, the AP reports. The cannon shoots sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine into the water, creating a picture of cavities that might contain oil. "It's like a sonogram of the earth," one petroleum engineer explains. The technology is already in use in the Gulf.
But environmentalists are worried about the impact such powerful soundwaves will have on endangered marine life. The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates that more than 138,000 sea creatures could be harmed, including some of the 500 remaining north Atlantic right whales in the world. "No one has been allowed to test anything like this on right whales," one whale expert says. The administration "has authorized a giant experiment on right whales that this country would never allow researchers to do."